Department of History of Science and Ideas

Charlotte Bigg: "The View From Here,There and Nowhere?"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
  • Seminarium

Office for History of Science

Charlotte Bigg, Centre Alexandre-Koyré/CNRS: "The View From Here,There and Nowhere? Situating the Observer in the Planetarium and in the Solar System"


Abstract
The projection planetarium has probably been the most important single device for communicating astronomy in the twentieth century and since. I look at the ways in which early twentieth century planetariums encouraged the rehearsal by spectators of different spatial positions and bodily relationships with regards to (models of) the solar system. Acquiring a proper understanding of the solar system did not simply require participants to adopt ‘the view from nowhere’ but involved a spatial, physical and sensory journey through multiple viewpoints that often also rehearsed an idealised history of astronomy. Widely praised for its illusionistic rendering of the night skies, the modern planetarium was also a showcase for the precision technology of its maker Carl Zeiss, offering an experience simultaneously of simulated Nature, of astronomy and of technological mastery. Astronomy, the quintessential science of space and time, afforded in the planetarium an occasion for reflecting in broader ways on individuals’ and humans’ place in the modern world. Planetariums may be understood as materialising and promoting particular epistemological and pedagogical conceptions of the knowing subject; while they partook in the collective reflection on Nature, science and technology in modernity.