CfP: Workshop 'Promises of Precision'

Workshop: Promises of Precision – Questioning Precision in ‘Precision’ Instruments

29-30 September 2021, Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

This workshop will formally conclude a DFG-funded research project entitled Vom Lauf der Sterne und Gang der Uhren. Astronomie und Präzisionsuhrmacherei in Deutschland um 1800 (‘On the course of the stars and the going of clocks: astronomy and precision horology in Germany around 1800’), which has studied the performance as well as the handling and monitoring of ‘precision’ pendulum clocks in 18th-century observatories. The project has examined the clocks’ technical quality and investigated the scope of horological knowledge circulating among astronomers. One central question concerns the degree of precision reached by the clocks – and the very meaning of the term as understood by the period’s various practitioners.

The research process has shown that knowledge and opinions about technical matters varied substantially within the astronomical world of the 18th-century. Furthermore, it turns out that a variety of methods was used in order to control the clocks, methods often lacking in rigour. As a result, the notion of precision in ‘precision clocks’ has to be rethought.

This finding has prompted the idea of a workshop picking up the topic of precision and questioning its customary use. Proposals are welcomed for object-centred talks (20-30 minutes) on scientific instruments (not just timepieces!) that examine the perception, conception, realization, and communication of precision – or the failure of these notions – in the early-modern period (up to the early 19th century).

The workshop is scheduled for 29-30 September 2021. We hope to be able to meet in person (if the state of the pandemic permits); otherwise we will revert to a digital format. The organizers will contribute to travel expenses.

Please, send expressions of interest and a short outline of the intended paper (max. 300 words) to Sibylle Gluch by 18 April 2021.