Norton Wise, “The Aesthetics of Experiment of Hermann Helmholtz”

Frog-drawing machine, Helmholtz 1848–1852

“The Aesthetics of Experiment of Hermann Helmholtz”

Norton Wise, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

IEC, 18h30

Helmholtz began teaching anatomical drawing to students at the Academy of Art in Berlin at the same time as he began experiments with a “frog-drawing-machine” in which the muscle of a frog drew the curve of its own contraction. This correlation between students and frogs learning to draw will initiate an exploration of a particular culture of experiment that grew up in mid-century Berlin. It focused on the immediate visual intuition supposed to be supplied by lines inscribed by self-recording instruments, and it treated the lines in idealistic terms as the true expression of nature’s own writing. The motivation and justification for this form of experimental knowledge should be sought in historical terms, in the resources that Helmholtz and his associates derived from the wider culture of art and industry in Berlin.

SCHCT-CEHIC, Institut d’Estudis Catalans.