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ON SEEING AN IMAGE OF A SPIRAL NEBULA: FROM WHEWELL TO FLAMMARION

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image of Nuncius

<title> ABSTRACT </title>The following proposes to give a biography of an image. The image chosen will be that of the 3rd Earl of Rosse's 'Great Spiral' or M51 as published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society for the year 1850. We will follow the image as it is reproduced, copied, interpreted, and re-published, in the mid to late nineteenth century, in the works of William Whewell, Stephan Alexander, Dionysius Lardner, George Chambers, and finally Camille Flammarion. The biography of Rosse's image of M51 will reveal a series of different kinds of juxtapositions and relations, all made in order to make the object more accessible to different kinds of inquiry. But I would also like to suggest that this aspect may be better viewed as a strategy involving the active intervention and adjustment of the image which is employed in order to make some claims about the object possible or more plausible than others. It is by tracing some of the paths taken by this image of the Great Spiral that I hope to reveal the relevance and significance of advocating the notion of a biography of an image for the purposes of understanding scientific representations more generally.

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/content/journals/10.1163/182539109x00624
2009-01-01
2016-12-10

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