Geschichte der Frühen Neuzeit




Paolo Savoia (Bologna): Surface Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

Vortrag im Rahmen des Oberseminars Frühe Neuzeit


The surfaces of natural things invite observation, manipulation, measurement, and re-configuration, with the promise to unveil the knowledge of depths. In early modern Europe, artisans’ embodied skills and practical knowledge about the surface of things and bodies led to the concept of nature and matter as composed of layers, corpuscles, and artificially reproducible solid parts. Such changes contributed to the demise of traditional Galenic and Aristotelian views on nature. This presentation explores issues of production of knowledge, and studies the ways in which material knowledge-making practices contributed to the mental habits of observing and experimenting with nature. I argue that by looking at the work of “vernacular scientists” a clear link emerges between the observational and empiricist ethos of the seventeenth century with barbers observing the veins crossing the human body, metallurgists looking for ores in their mountain hikes, gardeners finding ways to graft plants, merchants praising the colours and peel of citrus fruits, anatomists preparing the cadaver, physicians observing skin problems, cooks carving meat, and butchers skinning their animals.