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Omar W. Nasim


historian of science and philosophy

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Omar W. Nasim


historian of science and philosophy

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My work cuts across disciplinary boundaries. With an emphasis on visualising practices and technologies in the history of scientific observation, it also overlaps with the history of art, visual studies and cultures, and the histories of the book, the archive, printing, and information. 

Some of these overlaps also come into play when I examine the use of flat paper optical illusions in the Mind Sciences of the late 19th century. The latter connects to my work on the history of early analytic philosophy and theories of perception.

What brings these diverse threads in my research together is a fascination with the notion of construction in the histories of science, art and philosophy. Whether it is a focus on constructing with abstract tools or with pencil and paper, the long history of construction still needs to be told. 

About

Welcome to my webpage. I am the Professor for the History of Science at the University of Regensburg (Germany). I am the author of numerous articles, edited collections, and of two award winning monographs.

Broadly speaking, my research covers 19th and early 20th century observational sciences like astronomy. It focuses on the practices of visualisation and imaging-making in these sciences. It is within this nexus of interests that my work explores various dynamics between Science and Art.

Paperwork and research processes, along with materials and techniques implicated in these processes, are at the heart of my work. Of particular interest to me are the ways in which scientific phenomena are made to appear on surfaces like paper or glass-plate negatives.


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Current Projects


Current Projects


ornamental mind

optical illusions and design

This is an intellectual and cultural history showing how a set of assumptions initially formulated about ornamental artefacts and images--coming in from all over the world into Western Europe during the early nineteenth century--informed and shaped the use of visual images in the praxis of the Human and Mind Sciences later in the same century. I explore how an extensive discourse on the ornamental arts was a source of motivation and grounding for the use of images as revealing something unique about the operations or disorders of the human mind. 

Paperwork

Drawing and Note-Taking in Science

I continue to look into a variety of techniques and practices associated with paperwork in the history of science. My work interrogates the archives of observers in order to bring to light how they used paper implements in the service of science. So for instance, I am currently attempting to understand Sir George Airy's methods of recording observations that he instituted at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. How lists were made, how data was entered and tabulated, and the manner in which it was analyzed reveal the multiple functions of paper within a regime inspired by the factory.  

observing by light

Astrophotography

This project continues where my book Observing by Hand left off; namely, the investigation into photographing the nebulae. But far from dividing drawing from photography, this project seeks to make sense of the actual practices of photographing the heavens as I am unearthing them at the archive---practices that show photography to be fused and intermingled with other more traditional media, including drawing. This project proposes new categories for understanding photography as a hybrid medium in the history of science.

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My Books


My Books


observing by hand

sketching the nebulae in the nineteenth century

A book about what the act of drawing contributes to knowing and seeing in an observational science like astronomy. I access these connections and contributions through a close study of unpublished and private observing books belonging to nineteenth century astronomers. The story told is as much about how mysterious and ambiguous objects like the nebulae were visualised and stabilised as phenomena as it is a story about the role of paperwork in science. In the end the book attempts to raise the status--through a close study of sketch-making practices--of instruments such as a pencil and paper for the history of science.

bertrand russell and the edwardian philosophers

constructing the world

This award-winning book deals with the ways in which Bertrand Russell was influenced by a major controversy that raged within English philosophy at the beginning of the 20th century. It shows how philosophers--some who have now been forgotten--helped Russell to give shape to his solution to the problem of the external world. Notions as central to analytic philosophy as  'sense-data' and 'logical construction' are re-interpreted in the context and framework of Russell's direct engagement with the is Edwardian controversy. Embedding Russell's philosophical work from the Edwardian period in this way also connects it to currents in late nineteenth century psychology and mathematics.

Notieren, skizzieren

schreiben und zeichnen als verfahren des entwurfs

A collection of essays in German that I co-edited (with Karin Krauthausen). This interdisciplinary collection brings together essays on note-taking and sketch-making practices. Leading scholars in the fields of comparative literature and art, history of science and mathematics contribute original essays addressing the connection between these practices and creativity, design, and knowledge-production. The book also contains a transcription of an exclusive interview with Hans-Joerg Rheinberger.