NEH Summer Institute: Experience and Experiment in Early Modern Europe (seminar)
This was a summer 2001 seminar lead by Pamela O. Long and Pamela H. Smith from 25 June to 3 August 2001.
The institute opened up a wide-ranging investigation of the different understandings and contexts of experience in the early modern period. Changing views of experience affected many areas, including the conceptualization of human psychology and the human soul; artisanal knowledge; alchemical and neo-Platonic approaches to the material world; views of the body both as a subject of anatomy and as a source of agency; the nature and role of the five senses; techniques of visual representation; and new experimental methodologies. The institute gathered a distinguished visiting faculty and sixteen college teachers from across the country-each with their own expertises and perspectives-to examine a number of practices in these areas, including painting, architecture, cartography, alchemy, medicine, mechanics, and literature. It investigated the increasing significance that technical knowledge came to have in social and economic configurations such as court culture, urban culture, and the marketplace. It paid particular attention to the habits of mind-the "material understanding"-of the craftsperson out of which was shaped a new empirical "method of philosophizing" and a new way of viewing nature.
Directors: Pamela O. Long is an independent scholar who in 2000-2001 was a senior fellow at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT. Her recent publications include Technology, Culture, and Society in Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe, 1300-1600 (Washington: American Historical Association, 2001) and Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), which won the Morris D. Forkosch Prize, awarded by the Journal of the History of Ideas for the best book in intellectual history published in 2001.
Pamela H. Smith is the Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of books on alchemy, artisans, and the making of knowledge. Recent ones include The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (2004) and Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge (with Amy R. W. Meyers and Harold C. Cook, 2014). Her present research reconstructs the vernacular knowledge of early modern European miners and metalworkers.