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Trees of Knowledge: Science and the Shape of Genealogy
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History of Science and Ideas.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3212-6965
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study investigates early employments of family trees in the modern sciences, in order to historicise their iconic status and now established uses, notably in evolutionary biology and linguistics. Moving beyond disciplinary accounts to consider the wider cultural background, it examines how early uses within the sciences transformed family trees as a format of visual representation, as well as the meanings invested in them.

Historical writing about trees in the modern sciences is heavily tilted towards evolutionary biology, especially the iconic diagrams associated with Darwinism. Trees of Knowledge shifts the focus to France in the wake of the Revolution, when family trees were first put to use in a number of disparate academic fields. Through three case studies drawn from across the disciplines, it investigates the simultaneous appearance of trees in natural history, language studies, and music theory. Augustin Augier’s tree of plant families, Félix Gallet’s family tree of dead and living languages, and Henri Montan Berton’s family tree of chords served diverse ends, yet all exploited the familiar shape of genealogy.

While outlining how genealogical trees once constituted a more general resource in scholarly knowledge production—employed primarily as pedagogical tools—this study argues that family trees entered the modern sciences independently of the evolutionary theories they were later made to illustrate. The trees from post-revolutionary France occasionally charted development over time, yet more often they served to visualise organic hierarchy and perfect order. In bringing this neglected history to light, Trees of Knowledge provides not only a rich account of the rise of tree thinking in the modern sciences, but also a pragmatic methodology for approaching the dynamic interplay of metaphor, visual representation, and knowledge production in the history of science.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2019. , p. 339
Series
Uppsala Studies in History of Ideas, ISSN 1653-5197 ; 51
Keywords [en]
cultural history of science, science and metaphor, science and visual representation, family trees, tree diagrams, information management, classification, natural history, philology, music theory, genealogy, evolution, secularisation, Enlightenment, French Revolution, Augustin Augier (1758–1825), Félix Gallet (1773–c. 1840/47), Henri Montan Berton (1767–1844).
National Category
History
Research subject
History of Sciences and Ideas
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-390260ISBN: 978-91-513-0711-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-390260DiVA, id: diva2:1341780
Public defence
2019-09-28, the Humanities Theatre, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-09-06 Created: 2019-08-11 Last updated: 2019-09-17

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Hellström, Petter

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