My work is about the ideals and practices of representation in early modern natural history, philosophy and theology. I am currently working on two projects:
The first concerns the nature and uses of representation among some of the members of early Royal Society, including Robert Boyle, Nehemiah Grew, John Ray and Thomas Willis. By considering the effects that these philosophers attributed to the different forms and styles of representation available to them, I seek to understand the varied uses – epistemic, ethical and religious – to which they put natural history. This means that I proceed by considering medical and rhetorical materials about the effects of representation alongside archival and printed materials more immediately concerning representation in natural philosophy.
The idea of picturing was important to the members of the early Royal Society even when they chose to represent natural things with words. I respond to this by considering the affective and visual qualities of their verbal descriptions alongside the rhetoric of their drawings, engravings and other visual images.
My second project is about the production and reception of William Cheselden’s Osteographia, or The Anatomy of the Bones, a work that graphically and verbally describes the human bones. I hope to bring to light an eighteenth century debate about whether beautiful and luxurious representation was useful in the production of knowledge.
Alexander Wragge-Morley, ‘Restitution, Description and Knowledge in English Architecture and Natural Philosophy, 1650-1750’, Architectural Research Quarterly 14(3) (2010).
Alexander Wragge-Morley, ‘How Thomas Willis Made the Brain Visible’, Viewpoint (Newsletter of the British Society for the History of Science), 93 (October 2010).
Alexander Wragge-Morley, ‘The Work of Verbal Picturing for John Ray and some of his Contemporaries’, Intellectual History Review, 20(1) (2010).
Alexander Wragge-Morley, ‘A strange and surprising debate: mountains, original sin and ‘science’ in seventeenth-century England’, Endeavour, 33(2) (2009).
[This piece was subsequently translated into Polish and published as ‘Dziwna i zaskakujaca debata: góry, grzech pierworodny i “nauka” w Anglii w XVII wieku’ in (ed.) Jan Dziaczkowski and Marek Pieniążek, Ekspektatywa_5: Góry dla Warszawy (Fundacja bęc Zmiana: Warsaw, 2010).]