Note: For a quick overview of this database, please see this leaflet (PDF download). For a fast semi-automatic import of our links into other webpages, please download our latest Beacon-file (dated May 2019).
This database on scientific illustrators (henceforth abbreviated DSI) is a project by the Section for History of Science & Technology [Abteilung für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und Technik, GNT] at the History Dept. at the University of Stuttgart. While working on the history of visual representations in science and technology, the Section’s director, Prof. Dr. Klaus Hentschel, noticed the lack of a finding aid on scientific illustrators: draughtsmen and women, photographers, and other specialists in visual representations of scientific objects and processes. Quite in contrast to the wealth of dictionaries on scientists, technologists or artists, there is practically no specialized dictionary on scientific illustrators. Historians of art have produced a couple of dictionaries on artist-illustrators (see below for a short list of some of the most pertinent ones), but typically illustrators specializing on scientific objects and sujets have been excluded. They are categorized as mere artisans, not as artists. There is thus a need for a convenient and easy-to-use historical finding aid for information about scientific illustrators.
The aim of DSI is to provide quick and reliable reference information about scientific illustrators. Designed as an interactive website, it lets users make pertinent additions for convenient public access. Our database permits searches for names, aliases, and abbreviations of artisan names, thus granting easy retrieval of entries in the database. Our search mask allows targeted searches through all the other categories as well (see below for brief commentary on each category). It will not only be possible to search for specific individuals, but also for all illustrators of the protestant faith, for instance, or ones working for a specific client, institution, etc. Thereby, our database will not only be useful to historians of science and technology searching for specific illustrators whom they have come across in some primary source, but also to social historians and various other user groups. It is open to everyone and free of charge. While we have decided not to include any images and illustrations produced by those entered in our database, we do include references to works containing such illustrations, and in a separate category, links to public webpages containing such material.
Our selection includes illustrators from the invention of the printing press around 1450 up to ca.1950. The rationale behind these lower and upper limits is the following: Usually very little is known about the biographies and contexts of most medieval illustrators. The few individuals for whom this is not the case are already well known and easy to retrieve in the specialized literature, even through google searches, and the like. So it appears to make sense for our database to begin at the period when books were printed, not copied manually. We thus do include early woodcutters, but also engravers, lithographers, chromolithographers, and specialists in the various processes of photomechanical printing techniques invented after 1850. Since we do not want to compete with finding aids about currently active illustrators, we are limiting our database to individuals active earlier than circa 1950, thus explicitly excluding living illustrators and print experts.
With respect to the definition of a scientific illustrator, we are acutely aware of the historicity of terms such as ‘science,’ ‘illustration,’ ‘picture,’ ‘image,’ ‘representation’ etc. Thus we explicitly include illustrators specialized in natural history (e.g., mineralogy and crystallography, botany, and zoology) as well as those who worked in various fields of natural science as known today (astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, esp. anatomy, embryology, cell-physiology etc.). However, we do not want to list illustrators specializing in subjects totally outside of science, such as for instance painters of purely aesthetic still-lifes with plants, fruits, insects and some other animals; likewise, no artists exclusively concentrating on landscapes or portrait engravings, or avid horse or bird painters (unless their works have been commissioned by a zoologist or ornithologist for scientific purposes). There will indubitably be borderline cases, but the decisive criterion for inclusion will have to be the given illustrator’s goal of ‘scientific’ or naturalistic documentation as opposed to the quite different goals of pleasing aesthetics, entertainment or decoration in the many other cases irrelevant to us. In order to indicate that the DSI will not be an all-inclusive database of illustrators generally, we—reluctantly—decided to include the signal term ‘scientific’ in its title, even though this term is somewhat anachronistic for the 15th to 18th centuries. We hope we will be pardoned.
For a methodological introduction in how to use DSI and a summary of content please click here (external Link, Oct. 2012, i.e. outdated as far as the absolute numbers of entries are concerned, but still useful for search tips and general guidance)
The DSI has been inspired by two other databases in the Internet, both of which are models of their kind and very useful research aids: - the Database Machine Drawings, compiled at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin, online at http://dmd.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/home - the Catalog of the Scientific Community in the 16th and 17th Centuries, compiled by Robert Westman (Indiana University) and extended by Albert van Helden and his students at Rice University, online at http://galileo.rice.edu/lib/catalog.html. Both these sites served as our inspiration, also as concerns a couple of technical inputs.
We would be glad if other biographic or prosopographic projects will use this database to the fullest effect. In order to make cross-references to DSI easier, we also provide a BEACON-file which offers a tabular translation of our DSI-ID numbers into viaf-numbers.
Stuttgart, put online in April 2011, this page last updated February 2021,
Section for History of Science & Technology
(Abt. für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften & Technik, GNT) Historisches Institut, Universität Stuttgart
Keplerstrasse 17, Floor 8a,
Phone: +49 / 7 11 / 6 85-8 23 12
E-mail: thimmel (at) gmx.net or klaus.hentschel (at) hi.uni-stuttgart.de
Disclaimer: The Section for History of Science and Technology (Abteilung für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und Technik, henceforth abbreviated GNT) has made every effort to provide timely and accurate information. Nevertheless, mistakes and obscurities may occur. GNT does not assume liability for the relevance, accuracy, and completeness of the information provided. GNT is only liable for material or immaterial damages if it can be proven that it caused damage deliberately or through gross negligence. The same applies to the software available for downloading free of charge. GNT reserves the right to change, supplement, or delete some or all of the information on its Internet website without notice. Similarly, it also reserves the right to temporarily or permanently discontinue the Internet website. Individuals or organizations providing information on the Internet are only responsible for illegal and punishable contents derived from other sources which are accessed by direct or indirect connections, e.g. links, if the individuals and organizations are aware of the nature of these contents on these websites. Contents derived from other sources are noted appropriately. GNT has no influence whatsoever on contents derived from other sources and does not promote them. We have no knowledge of illegal or offensive contents contained in the linked websites of other providers. If there are illegal and offensive contents on the websites of other information providers, GNT distances itself expressly from these contents.
Copyright: The layout and contents of this database by GNT are protected by copyright law. © GNT, Universität Stuttgart 2011-19. All rights reserved.
Torsten K. D. Himmel (M.A.-student at GNT/Wissenskulturen)
Ann M. Hentschel B.A.
Prof. Dr. Klaus Hentschel (GNT)
Katja Haberl B.A. (GNT)
various outside contributors
Design and technical realization:
Christian Lehmann B.A. (Ph.D. student at GNT); Per Pascal Seeland (platform updates in DaDaBik)