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Wicked IntelligenceVisual Art and the Science of Experiment in Restoration London$
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Matthew C. Hunter

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226017297

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226017327.001.0001

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“The Wonderful Elaboratory of the Animal Body”

“The Wonderful Elaboratory of the Animal Body”

The Royal Society's Repository at Work

(p.159) Chapter Five “The Wonderful Elaboratory of the Animal Body”
Wicked Intelligence

Matthew C. Hunter

University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on the Royal Society’s early museum at Gresham College in London where objects from the institution’s far-flung contacts were put on public display. Examining the ways in which these valuable artifacts were physically disassembled, reconfigured and recoded with meaning (often many times over) in the Royal Society’s meetings, the chapter demonstrates how the museum collection came to serve as a powerful model for the faculties of cognition particularly for Robert Hooke, Keeper of the museum itself. Hooke’s writings on cognition from the early 1680s, I argue, articulate this epistemological geography. Distributed networks of informants became the senses of the experimental body which would deliver ontologically-fragile, unreliable objects to the centralized laboratory of the mind. There, the countervailing agency of what Hooke would call (through engagement with Elizabethan philosopher John Dee) “Archietonical Power” brings them to stable, rational order and feeds intelligence back out to the periphery. By shifting between the Royal Society’s constant bricolage of museum artifacts and Hooke’s conception of reason, the chapter sheds raking light on the darker textures of experimental intelligence.

Keywords:   collecting, Royal Society of London, museum, Robert Hooke, John Dee, archietonical power, information management, socially-distributed cognition, modeling, wicked intelligence

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