History and Philosophy Of Science | Eyes, Optics, Light & Color: Studies of Vision from the Renaissance through the 20th Century
E104 | 14268 | Jutta Schickore

Jutta Schickore
Eyes, Optics, Light, and Color:
Studies of vision from the Renaissance through the 20th centuries

Vision is one of the elementary processes of life, but at the same
time deeply mysterious: How exactly does vision work? Can we really
trust our eyes? What is the mindís role in seeing? Are our eyes
passive receptors or active contributors to sensory perception? How
do insects see? And how can we find out what our own eyes and brains
are doing when we see?
Anatomists and physiologists, philosophers of various stripes,
psychologists, mathematicians and physicists, artists, and
physicians have grappled with such questions. Beginning in the
seventeenth century, this course will survey a wide range of
approaches to the study of vision. We will examine what anatomists
learned from dissecting eyes and physicians from pathologies of
vision; how telescopes and microscopes revolutionized the
understanding of perception; why philosophers cared about pure
sensations; how painters employed the science of perspective to
create visual effects; why physiologists became interested in
kaleidoscopes and stroboscopes; and how all these endeavors have
contributed to our understanding of this complex, elusive, and yet
so basic activity: vision. The course will integrate transformations
in the study of vision with broader scientific, socio-political, and
cultural changes in society.