Optics and the Rise of Perspective

GEMASS Website

Optics and the Rise of Perspective
A Study in Network Knowledge Diffusion
By Dominique Raynaud

May 2014, hardback, 260pp.
ISBN: 978-1-905622-31-3
GEMAS Studies in Social Analysis


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Why did linear perspective rise in trecento–quattrocento central Italy rather than in any other cultural context? This book provides new insight into the question of the early Italian pioneership in perspective, building on the fact that many references to optics can be found in Renaissance treatises. The fact that most of the medieval optical manuscripts were written by Franciscan masters - the best known among them being Roger Bacon and John Pecham - suggests a closer look at Franciscan medieval universities (studia generalia) is needed. An in-depth study of recruitment highlights the exceptional mobility of masters and lectors throughout Europe. However, through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the closer a university was to central Italy, the more cosmopolitan it was. This is a result of the topology of the academic network, since cosmopolitanism depends on the studium’s closeness centrality. Through the masters’ mobility, knowledge circulating in the network preferentially flowed into central Italy.

This book is a remarkable study of the intellectual context in which perspective came to be a key part of visual representation in Western culture and science. It uses a broad spectrum of methods, ranging from the biographies of university scholars and textual concordance to cross-cultural comparison, advanced network analysis and modelling.

About the Author:

Dominique Raynaud is a sociologist and historian of science who previously trained as an architect. He is the author of many articles and books in the field, among which are L’Hypothèse d’Oxford. Essai sur les origines de la perspective (Paris, 1998), Sociologie des controverses scientifiques (Paris, 2003) and La Sociologie et sa vocation scientifique (Paris, 2006).


List of Tables and Illustrations

CHAPTER 1 - Perspective and its Optical Backing

PART I: Why did Optics not Lead to Perspective in Medieval Islam?

CHAPTER 2 - The Axiological Foundations of Perspective

PART II: Why Did Perspective Arise in Central Italy?

CHAPTER 3 - Academic Recruitment and Mobility
CHAPTER 4 - The Studia Generalia Network
CHAPTER 5 - Knowledge Diffusion Simulation

Appendix 1 - List of OFM University Lectors
Appendix 2 - List of OFM Universities
Appendix 3 - List of OFM Provinces
Index of Names
Subject Index

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