ABSTRACT

Self-visualizations and portraits of scholars play a crucial role for the identity and understanding of scientific disciplines. According to sociological thoughts on visualization, reproduction and modern governance, the new media of photography policed and controlled specific ways of self-imaging, defining and behaving as a scientist. In addition, photography can also be understood as a powerful tool for scholarly self-profiling, image cultivation and the promotion of science to the public. An impressive example of the visual representation of scholarship is a richly decorated photo album dedicated to the geologist Eduard Suess (1831–1914) on the occasion of his 70th birthday and retirement as a professor from the University of Vienna in 1901. As a collection of 332 photos of his students, colleagues and other earth scientists, the album served as a personal gift to Suess, but also as a visualization of how scholarly collaboration, hierarchy and the interdependence between students and academic teachers were practiced. Linking Suess’ photo album to theoretical concepts on scientific self-depiction and media history, the paper examines how rhetorics of display may be invoked and challenged in the context of professionalization, discipline formation and science popularization, and suggests renewed analytical attention to the role of portrait imagery in the history of science.

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