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Didi van Trijp MSc

PhD candidate

E-mail: d.r.van.trijp@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Area(s) of interest: Early Modern History, History of Books, History of Knowledge

Enlightened Fish Books: A New History of Eighteenth-Century Ichthyology (1686-1828)

Universiteit Leiden
Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen
Overkoepelend project: A New History of Fishes: A Long-Term Approach to Fishes in Science and Culture, 1550-1880
Promotores: Prof. dr. Paul J. Smith, Prof. dr. Eric Jorink
Aanstelling: Vanaf oktober 2015

The study of fish and other aquatic creatures (ichthyology) occupied a place of esteem within early modern study of nature, and many ‘fish books’ were written from the fifteenth century onwards. This project, which is part of the NWO-funded project ‘A New History of Fishes: A Long-Term Approach to Fishes in Science and Culture, 1550-1880’, focuses on the development of ichthyology as a scientific discipline between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth century. The French naturalist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) distinguished four different phases in the shaping of ichthyology as a field of expert knowledge. The beginnings of this professionalization lay, he stated, in the methodological approach adopted by Francis Willughby and John Ray. This phase was followed by Carl Linnaeus’ system of classification.
The precise and colorful illustration policies of Marcus Elieser Bloch heralded yet another phase, whereas Comte de Buffon and Comte de Lacépède, lastly, employed distinct rhetorics of description in their works on aquatic animals. This PhD project reflects on each of these phases and includes assessment of Cuvier himself, who regarded his own ichthyological work as the logical conclusion of the developments he described. Furthermore, this project recognizes the societal context in which these naturalists produced their works, thus paying attention to matters of patronage, institutionalization and networks of knowledge.