History and Philosophy Of Science | History of Biology: The Microscope and the Eye
X508 | 30151 | Jutta Schickore


Since the seventeenth century, the microscope has been one of the
foremost instruments in the biomedical sciences. It has been
essential for the formation of key areas of research, such as cell
theory, embryology, and bacteriology; and novel kinds of microscopes
and imaging techniques now give access to sub-cellular elements. The
microscope was, for a time, the emblem of “scientific medicine”, and
it is still the physician’s staple tool for routine clinical tests.
It has frequently served as a focal point for philosophical
discussions about reality and the scope and limits of human
knowledge. And it was – still is – a popular device for
entertainment and diversion.

In this course, we will examine this versatile instrument, its
functions, its uses, and its limitations. Topics include: microscopy
and mechanistic anatomy; “entertainment and instruction”; debates
about art, God, and the beauty of microscopic creatures, life and
spontaneous generation; cells, germs, and the rise of scientific
medicine; illusions, artifacts, and the problem of reliability; the
making and circulation of microscopic images; and the microscope as
a tool for philosophers.