Institutional Image-Makers: Richard Waller and Claude Perrault

Katherine M. Reinhart (University of Cambridge)

Founded only six years apart, the Royal Society of London and the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris were two of the most important and influential scientific societies founded in the seventeenth century. Despite their very different national contexts, both societies regularly created drawings and printed images as part of their scientific pursuits and publications. Richard Waller of the Royal Society and Claude Perrault of the Paris Academy both actively participated in the scientific life of their respective institutions while at the same time each played an important role as an image-maker. In addition to his scientific investigations, translation work, and tenure as secretary, Richard Waller created many images for the early Royal Society from study drawings to engraved frontispieces. In Paris, Claude Perrault drove the anatomical research programme that became the Histoire des animaux volume, but he was also frequently tasked with creating images during the Academy’s dissections and experiments. What role did these two men play in shaping the visual programmes of their respective scientific societies? And how did their backgrounds as image-makers shape the scientific work they performed and vise versa? This paper will analyse the visual and graphic practices of these two prominent scientific societies through the work of two of their chief image-makers: Richard Waller and Claude Perrault.

Frontispiece to Memoirs for a Natural History of Animals, by Richard Waller (1688) © Royal Society
Frontispiece to Memoirs for a Natural History of Animals, by Richard Waller (1688) © Royal Society