Historia Medica Lecture: Kristina Kleughten (WashU Art History and Archeology) – “A new vision: Chinese spectacles and eyesight in ‘A History of Lenses’ (1681)”

September 21, 2022
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Becker Library King Center (Medical Campus, 7th Floor)

“A new vision: Chinese spectacles and eyesight in ‘A History of Lenses’ (1681)”

The 83rd Historia Medica Lecture is hosted by the Bernard Becker Medical Library in collaboration with the Center for History of Medicine.

In 1681, the Chinese scholar-artisan lens maker, Sun Yunqiu (ca. 1650–after 1681), published his short catalog, “A History of Lenses” (Jingshi, 1681). This first Chinese-authored treatise on optical devices describes several optical devices together with four types of spectacles: For presbyopia and nearsightedness, as well as lenses for aging eyes and for alleviating the discomfort of conjunctivitis. Presumed lost since the mid-Qing dynasty, a single copy of “A History of Lenses” was rediscovered in 2007, containing complex illustrations. Instead of depictions of the featured devices or diagrams depicting their function, the images, alongside poetry and erudite inscriptions, present a variety of antiques, works of art and material objects. Beginning with the spectacles, the publication integrates illustrations and texts to situate the new optical devices into more established, elite cultural practices. Focusing on the four types of spectacles in “A History of Lenses” reveals a range of techniques used to convince cultivated gentlemen that they should purchase these highly personal devices, and demonstrates how sight and vision were reconceptualized to integrate traditional Chinese medical beliefs with the new technology of spectacles.

Full schedule, Center for History of Medicine lectures

For inquiries contact Elisabeth Brander.