Maps contain lots of information in a condensed and abstract visual format. We trust maps to depict reality, and we trust that they are produced with scientific rigor. But as the fairly recent case of a “phantom island” in the Coral Sea shows, maps can contain false information, even in the age of satellite imagery. A historical perspective on the way geographical data was communicated in the past helps to understand how such false information got reproduced and eventually found its way from the late 18th century into Google Maps.
“Goedemiddag, ik had zeven boeken aangevraagd, ik weet niet of ze er al zijn?”
“Jaaaa”, zei de bibliothecaris grinnikend, “die zijn er al”, en keek naar de kar waarop de Description de l’Egypte lag opgestapeld, zeven dozen van 100×70 cm, een stapel van zeker een halve meter hoog. En dit waren dan nog alleen de platen. Ik had eerder omvangrijke werken aangevraagd, maar dit was toch wel de overtreffende trap.
Ever since humans began using stone slabs for the decoration and demarcation of their gravesites, masonry has been employed to show the social status of the deceased individual. In this tradition, the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli chose the figure of a logarithmic spiral to be carved onto his gravestone. The latin motto Eadem mutata resurgo (“Changed and yet the same, I rise again”) was to surround the spiral. However, when he died in 1705, the stonemasons that were responsible for the beautification of Bernoulli’s grave carved an Archimedean instead of a logarithmic spiral into it (see figure 2). And by doing so, they made a crucial mistake.
Theories of recapitulation arose in the late 18th but came to full bloom in the early 19th century. The common feature of such theories was the idea of a strong relationship between embryonic and species development. Such views were popular especially among the German Naturphilosophen, whose worldviews proved highly conductive to recapitulationist thinking. Species development in this context often implied not historical transformation but a kind of static progression, in a unified and morally meaningful universe. Elaborate and sometimes radical systems arose, leading one Naturphilosoph to ask the rhetorical question, “What are the lower animals but a series of human abortions?”
By Rosa Runhardt It’s become a platitude that the French live to eat, whereas the English eat to live. Visitors to both regions certainly remark on the French cuisine’s joie de vivre and the English’s plain fare. A look at the history of food, particularly of the aesthetic matters of taste and preference, shows that this impression has existed since the end of the Middle Ages. But why did the French nobleman by the 18th century enjoy a nouvelle cuisine supper menu consisting of countless hors d’oeuvres and delicate sauces, whilst an Englishman of similar standing still preferred to dine on simple roasts from his country grounds? This essay will review Stephen Mennell’s All Manners of Food (1985), which sheds light on the divergences in how gentlemen of these regions preferred, and still prefer, their dinner.
Ideas concerning species transformation and embryonic development enjoy a long and quirky history of perceived parallels and cross-pollination. In the first and introductory part of this series, I will take a look at the etymology of the word ‘evolution’ in biology. It entered the field as a term in embryology in the 18th century, to refer to theories of preformation. In little over a century, however, it made a U-turn and came to designate the general process of species transformation.
In de achttiende eeuw was het niet ongebruikelijk geleerde werken vooraf te laten gaan door een allegorische voorplaat. Deze frontispieces bevatten, naarmate het genre zich ontwikkelde en de prenttechniek verbeterde, steeds complexere composities vol bijbelse, mythologische en soms ook hermetische verwijzingen, die als een zoekplaatje de inhoud samenvatten. Maar vanaf medio achttiende eeuw versoberden de afbeeldingen en verdween het allegorische karakter ervan. Veranderende mode of een andere opvatting van wetenschap?