Edited By Kjerstin Aukrust
Part 1:The Aesthetic and Cultural Values of Science
Part 1: The Aesthetic and Cultural Values of Science 15 Size is in the Eye of the Beholder: On the Cultural History of Microfaunae in Seventeenth-Century Europe Adam Dodd “After an attentive examination of the nature and fabric of the least and largest animals, I cannot but allow the less an equal, or perhaps superior degree in dignity.”1 Published posthumously in 1758, Jan Swammerdam’s (1637-1680) The Book of Nature is but one example of the extent to which the empirical observation of insects in early modern Europe corresponded with changing notions about the value of subvisible and microscopic life. These changing notions of value were, and remain, intimately tied to the aesthetics – the set of principles concerning the appreciation of beauty in nature – encouraged and enabled by the microscope. Mi- crofaunae (used here to refer to all small and subvisible invertebrates)2 have re- ceived comparatively little attention from scholars of cultural history. Even with- in the rapidly expanding field of animal studies, which prioritizes the cultural relativity of conceptions of nonhuman species, microfaunae constitute only peri- pheral subjects. Yet, this vast and diverse group of animals represents many significant intersections of nature and culture, vision and imagination, objects and images – in short, the microfaunae do indeed have a rich and demonstrably cultural history. Knowledge about microfaunae represents not only a technologi- cal achievement (the invention and improvement of the microscope and micro- scopical technique), but a cultural achievement as well. For not only is the mi- croscope itself...
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