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2 Portraits of Scientists at Work The Ethos of Superiority and Exclusion While Carl Linnaeus was working on the Hortus Cliffortianus (see chapter 1), he had his portrait painted at George Clifford’s garden (figure 7). The tradition of scientific portraiture overlaps historically with the tradition of including frontispieces in scientific books. Linnaeus’s portrait is fairly typical of scientific portraiture in the eighteenth century: subjects commonly wore either their finest clothing or attire that would identify their vocation and were surrounded by prized possessions and/or objects of study to display their accomplishments . In this portrait, Linnaeus wears a Laplander costume and holds the plant that was named after him, the Linnaea borealis.1 It should come as no surprise that there are no portraits of Linnaeus in the midst of studying plants in Clifford’s garden; no mechanism existed in the eighteenth century to capture natural philosophers busily working. Painted portraits were not replaced by photographed portraits until the nineteenth century, and, even then, it was not immediately possible to take candid pictures of people in action. So, whereas the portrait of Linnaeus is typical of scientific portraiture of the eighteenth century, the type of portraiture that is considered typical today, due to technological advancements, is much different. Photographed portraits of scientists that are circulating on the Internet today, such as the one shown in figure 8, typically portray them in a laboratory or busily working with complex scientific paraphernalia. The photograph of Madhu Singh, a research scientist at the University of Iowa, is one of many that can be found through Google Images by using the search term “scientist at work.” The image comes from a website called Science Daily,2 and it depicts Singh “at work in his lab.”3 Singh’s portrait fits the template of most stock images of scientists, which depict them working in laboratory settings, wearing white lab coats, and holding up some kind of colorful liquid in flasks or beakers. As in painted portraits from the eighteenth century, the scientific objects surrounding scientists in portraits today, which Portraits of Scientists at Work • 33 have been called “symbolic attributes” or “accoutrements,” are a way of defining their identities as scientists.4 Thus, in scientific portraits, scientific objects can work as metonyms to import the authority of the scientific enterprise into a photograph.5 The important distinction between early scientific portraiture and the typical photographed portraiture of today is that in the former the scientist is posed and looks at the viewer, whereas in the latter the scientist is depicted “candidly,” as if busily working, and does not look at the viewer. This discussion revolves around that distinction, which has not yet been theorized in scholarship on scientific portraiture. What has been studied are the ways in which portraits in general create relationships between the photographed person and viewers.6 For example, according to Kress and van Leeuwen, viewers interact with photographs that contain people in ways that mimic interpersonal relationships in real life. Factors that contribute to the creation of this relationship include the gaze of the person in the photograph—the “represented participant,” in Kress and van Leeuwen’s terminology—as well as the distance between the represented Fig. 7. Martinus Hoffman, Carolus Linnaeus. 1737. Source: Boerhaave Museum. Available from Wikimedia Commons, https:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl _linnaeus_boerhaave_museum.JPG (accessed March 20, 2016). 34 • Introducing Science through Images participant and the camera and the angle from which the photograph was taken. Another significant point from extant scholarship is that portraits can be used to garner public support for the discipline and shape attitudes toward science. For example, in Defining Features, a study of scientific and medical portraiture over a 340-year time span, Ludmilla Jordanova explained that portraiture is responsible for creating public identities: she argued that portraiture “constructs not just the identity of the artist and the sitter, but that of institutions with which they are associated. Portraiture is just one highly artificial means by which, in some societies, individual and collective identities are forged.”7 Thus, portraits of scientists can function as portals for uninitiated audiences into the scientific enterprise. They can provide a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work that scientists do, thereby characterizing science for nonscientist publics. Portraiture has the potential to create presence for viewers, a concept advanced by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca8 but expanded by Gross and Dearin to encompass the entire constructed world that rhetors create for their audiences .9 Importantly...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781611178753
Related ISBN
9781611178746
MARC Record
OCLC
1003267820
Pages
160
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-22
Language
English
Open Access
No
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