Wonder and Wonders: Eighteenth-Century Science and the Imagination

Posted on Wed., April 13, 2022

Tita Chico, professor at the University of Maryland, explores how the concept of wonder during the eighteenth century helps us to see the imaginative underpinnings of how we come to understand the natural world and its various phenomena. Through this lecture, she reveals how feeling played a constitutive role in the formulation of Enlightenment rationalization.

The eighteenth century was populated with fantastical wonders where the moon could bleed; a tree could moan and also amble about the countryside; a little boy could have Latin and Hebrew etched in the whites of his eyes; one woman infected with smallpox could find that her legs self-amputate and another could give birth to seventeen rabbits; and people in the North of England lived up to 140 years. These wonders illustrate a co-mingling of divine portents and scientific facts, contradictory and yet concurrent ways of understanding the natural world, and a myriad of social connections that give these interpretations their value.

This is the Dibner Lecture in the History of Science and Technology.