EVENT Jun 06
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Visualizing Hidden Meanings: Symbolism and Cryptography in the Writings of Thomas Harriot and Galileo Galilei

Notre Dame, IN
Organization: University of Notre Dame
Categories: Digital Humanities, Early Modern & Renaissance, History, Science
Event Date: 2024-06-06 to 2024-06-06 Abstract Due: 2024-04-25

Please consider submitting papers to Visualizing Hidden Meanings: Symbolism and Cryptography in the Writings of Thomas Harriot and Galileo Galilei. This workshop provides an excellent platform for scholars to share their latest findings and insights in the early modern history of science. The deadline for paper submissions has been extended to April 25. 

We welcome submissions on a wide range of topics related to Thomas Harriot and Galileo Galilei. Whether you're presenting current research, innovative methodologies, or theoretical frameworks, we want to hear from you.

The workshop, “Visualizing Hidden Meanings: Symbolism and Cryptography in the Writings of Thomas Harriot and Galileo Galilei,” explores the intersection of science, symbolism, and cryptography in the books and manuscripts of two early modern scholars, Thomas Harriot and Galileo Galilei. Recent work in the Harriot Papers at Notre Dame (https://osf.io/r78gx/) has led to a first edition of the De infinitis (On the Infinite) while also fostering research on the history of mathematics in the early modern period. In addition to Harriot’s studies in algebra and combinatorial studies and Galileo’s contributions to astronomy and physics, both of these scholars had a hidden dimension to their work, one that involved the use of symbolism and cryptography to protect authorship and to claim the priority of their discoveries. This workshop aims to bring together new perspectives on symbolism and cryptography in the early modern period, in particular, to discuss the hidden, enigmatic elements present in the writings, notebooks, and correspondences of Galileo and Harriot. The workshop will be held in person at the University of Notre Dame’s Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship, Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values, and Rare Books and Special Collections, and online, via Zoom.

Please consider submitting an abstract on one of these topics:

  • The use of cryptographic elements in early modern correspondence
  • Galileo’s use of codes and ciphers to protect sensitive scientific discoveries and ideas
  • Harriot’s secretive communication methods in his private notes
  • The use of symbolism and natural language in mathematical texts
  • Methods and circulation of scientific communication in the early modern period
  • Revisiting traditional texts through comments in correspondence.

Participants are also invited to attend an interactive session, “Coding and Decoding,” run by Dr. Caterina Agostini. In a dedicated practical activity in the humanities and digital humanities, participants will have the opportunity to decode some of the cryptic elements in the works of Galileo and Harriot and study other coding systems. Starting with the ciphers devised by Johannes Trithemius, Leon Battista Alberti, and Giambattista Della Porta, participants will find out more about the use of cryptography and coding in scientific and diplomatic contexts – for example in the Venetian Republic and the Medici family correspondence in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as more recent coding and decoding initiatives developed around the use of punch cards and the indexing technique by Father Roberto Busa, S.J., and IBM for a concordance of works by Saint Thomas Aquinas called the Index Thomisticus project.

Concurrently with the Visualizing Hidden Meanings workshop, Rare Books and Special Collections will host a special exhibition, Making Books Count: Early Modern Books in the History of Mathematics at Notre Dame, curated by Dr. Caterina Agostini

Submitting your paper is quick and easy. Please send a title, an abstract of 150-200 words, and a short bio to caterina.agostini@nd.edu. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out.


Dr. Caterina Agostini