Cosmic Visions

Etching of astronomer using telescope with astonished assistant at left.

In this new initiative, AGHI connects scholars from both the humanities and the sciences to consider our shared Cosmic Visions. This collaboration will build bridges across the divide between Humanities and Physics/Astronomy and Space Science at JHU. In the words of our 2022 colloquium, “Taking the long view on the telescopic tradition itself, we wish to probe, from interdisciplinary perspectives, the political and philosophical dimensions of cosmic viewing, and how the act and its instruments have shaped scientific, philosophical, and artistic imaginaries across time.”

Specifically, the Cosmic Visions project—winner of a 2022 JHU Discovery Award—aims:

  1. to discover ways to make the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and its potential findings relevant to scholarly discourse in the Humanities; and
  2. to model and test new methods for integrating Physics/Astronomy with Humanistic research and teaching. Its ultimate goal is to contribute to the shaping of future generations of Humanities scholars who are science-literate – and STEM scholars who are skilled in critical humanistic inquiry.

AGHI thus joins researchers from across JHU and the neighboring Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), home since 2021 to both the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes (operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy).

The Cosmic Visions initiative is currently spearheaded by an interdisciplinary team of JHU scholars: Karen ni Mheallaigh (Classics), William Egginton (MLL and AGHI Director), Yulia Frumer (History of Science & Technology), Jeremy Greene (Medicine), Earle Havens (Libraries), and Marc Kamionkowski (Physics).

Past Cosmic Visions events

AGHI hosted a one-day colloquium and Sandbox entitled, “Teleskopia: the cosmic view across Science and Humanities” on Friday, April 22nd, 2022.

Details

By offering us new access to remote worlds in our own solar system, the telescope radically shifted our view of our cosmos and ourselves in the 17th century. Now, the new James Webb telescope will vastly expand our understanding of our universe’s beginnings – and end. Its launch in December 2021 provides a focal point for critical reflections on the traditions and implications of cosmic viewing.

Taking the long view on the telescopic tradition itself, we wish to probe, from interdisciplinary perspectives, the political and philosophical dimensions of cosmic viewing, and how the act and its instruments have shaped scientific, philosophical and artistic imaginaries across time. We are particularly interested to explore how telescopy – including telescopic desires before the invention of the telescope itself – brings the worlds of sciences and the humanities into closer contact, bridging interdisciplinary space as well as cosmic.

This one-day colloquium/sandbox will bring invited scholars together to share short, experimental presentations and to brainstorm ideas for a grant application to fund an ambitious interdisciplinary STEM/humanities research-project built around the James Webb telescope and traditions of teleskopia.

[Header image attribution: “Astronomy: the astronomer Sidrophel, using a telescope, misidentifies a kite as a comet.” Etching by W. Hogarth, ca. 1721. Via the Wellcome Collection.]