CSMBR Summer School - LATITUDES OF THE BODY. Human-Based Measurement and its Contexts, from Leonardo to Newton (1400-1700), 21-24 July 2021, Italy


Event Date:

July 21, 2021 - July 24, 2021

Opportunity Cover Image - CSMBR Summer School - LATITUDES OF THE BODY. Human-Based Measurement and its Contexts, from Leonardo to Newton (1400-1700),  21-24 July 2021, Italy


LATITUDES OF THE BODY. Human-Based Measurement and its Contexts, from Leonardo to Newton (1400-1700)

Keynote Speakers:

Martin Kemp (University of Oxford)
Michael Stolberg (Julius Maximilians–Universität, Würzburg),
Giulia Martina Weston (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London)


Fabrizio Bigotti (CSMBR, JMU Wurzburg, University of Exeter)

Human-Based Measurement and its Contexts,
from Leonardo to Newton (1400-1700)

CSMBR Summer School
21-24 July 2021
Domvs Comeliana, Pisa

Keynote Speakers:
Martin Kemp (University of Oxford), confirmed
Michael Stolberg (Julius Maximilians–Universität, Würzburg), confirmed
Giulia Martina Weston (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London), confirmed

Fabrizio Bigotti (CSMBR, Julius Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, University of Exeter)

Proposals are invited for the 2021 summer school hosted by the Centre for the Study of Medicine and the Body in the Renaissance (CSMBR) which shall explore theories, applications, problems, and contexts of human-based measurements across the late medieval and early modern period (c.1400-1700). The event builds upon a series of four intertwined questions:

How was it like experiencing the world
before the advent of universally standardised measurement?

What role did the human body, its limbs, and the five senses play
in defining spaces, distances, values, lists of objects, schemes, and prices?

How were systems of human-based measurement affected
by the advent of early modern technology?

To what extent can we replace human-based and
value-laden measurement with technology-based parameters?

These questions will be addressed both in presentations and roundtables by focusing on three main themes, namely:

1) the Body as a Canon and its Proportions
2) the Body as a Unit of Measurement: Place, Space, and Orientation
3) the Body as a Unit of Value: Quality and Price

Under each headline speakers will be discussing how the three-dimensionality of the body and its limbs affected theories of proportion (Galen, Leonardo, Dürer, Vesalius, Valverde, Palladio, etc.) as well as the shaping of architectural and urban spaces in normal and pathological conditions (e.g. homes, temples, hospices, pharmacies, hospitals and areas of confinement); the methods and orders of dissection and their impact on learned representations of the body (Berengario da Carpi, Charles Estienne, Bassiano Landi, Vesalius, Van Spiegel, Acquapendente).
Particular attention will be devoted to the five senses and to the way the sense of taste defined values of quality/purity and thus prices of foodstuff on the market (drugs, spices, etc.), how the mapping of colours and shades helped classifying substances (uroscopy, classification of mixtures); how the anatomy of the eye was related to the definition of “visual space” in the perception of external objects, the development of acoustics and harmonics in relation to the anatomy of the ear as well as, more generally, how philosophical theories of natural place (locus) and spatial orientation developed side by side with an analysis of sense-perception. Special emphasis shall also be laid on how units of measure in terms of inches, palms, fathoms, and feet were relevant in the making of maps, astronomical observations, and diagrams of latitude as well as on the relation between heartbeat and time, in medicine as well as in music.
While strongly rooted in the intellectual history tradition, the summer school will present and discuss a variety of verbal and non-verbal sources (e.g. manuscripts, images, music pieces, and artefacts) in a multidisciplinary approach that aims at attracting and welcoming scholars with different backgrounds, interests and expertise.


The summer school will span across four days, articulated as 3+1, namely three days of lectures plus a final day entirely dedicated to roundtables and to the discussion of presentations from attendees (see below). To these, two workshops are added: the former (late morning) shall focus on reading and interpreting manuscript sources relevant to the visualisation of the body (Stolberg), the latter (late afternoon) will be devoted to hands-on experimentation with replicas of early modern instruments (esp. Santorio’s pulsilogium).

To engage fully with the attendees during this four-day experience, speakers are strongly invited to elaborate their contributions in form of PowerPoint presentations while drawing on a verity of sources, including but not limited to artefacts, images, videos, and music tracks, which shall then be discussed in thematic roundtables with attendees on day 4.


Day 1 – The Body as a Canon and its Proportions

o The ‘Homo Vitruvianus’: Sources, Applications, Developments - Martin Kemp
o Canon and Temperament (in light of Galen’s De usu partium and De optima corporis nostri constitutione its tradition, translation and other similar medical treatises) – Martin Kemp, Vivian Nutton
o Body-Statue Proportions (Brunelleschi, Alberti, Leonardo, etc.)
o Ideal Cities as Ideal bodies (all related themes)
o The Architecture of the Healthy and Diseased Body (e.g. houses, hospitals, pharmacies, spaces of confinement, etc.)

Day 2 – The Body as a Unit of Measurement
o Units of Measurements (inches, fingers, palms, cubits, arms, feet, steps, degrees) and their import in the description of objects, maps, market lists and diagrams.
o Diagrams of Latitude and Scientific Diagrams (Fabrizio Bigotti)
o Astronomical Observations before and after the Pendulum
o Feeling the Pulse, methods, and forms of quantification
o Rhythms of the Heart: Time in Music
o Measurements of Vital Phenomena (e.g. technology in medicine, from the pulsilogium onwards)

Day 3 – The Body as a Unit of Value
o The Eye and the Perception of External Objects
o Measuring by Colour: Classification of Humours by Shades in Alchemy and Uroscopy (Michael Stolberg)
o Taste and Price: Tasteful qualities as Units of Value (i.e. purity/impurity, brilliancy, smell, Colour etc.)
o Hearing: Issues in Acoustics and Harmonics as linked to the human perception of sound
o Order and Method in Anatomy (with special reference to the length of the organs and the spatial method of dissection: “a capite ad cor, a corde infra”)
o Physical Orientation and Perception of External Objects in EM Natural Philosophy (Aristotelianism, Platonism, as well as individual authors i.e. Gassendi, Locke, Leibniz, Kant)

Day 4 – Workshops and Labs*
o Discussion of attendees’ papers (5-7 min each followed by discussion)
o Philology Lab: Situs, Figura, Numerus in EM Anatomical Mss (Fabrizio Bigotti, Michael Stolberg)
o 4 Round tables (30 min each) discussing music tracks, images, and artefacts
o Tech Lab: Applications of Santorio’s Pulsilogium (Barry and Bigotti)

The Summer School is currently envisaged to take place in Pisa in late July, with the individual lectures recorded. Alternatively, the sessions will be moved online.

Authors of selected proposals will be invited to join the Summer School in Pisa while proceedings will be revised and published with Palgrave Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Medicine (PSMEMM) – Springer Nature

For further information about the event contact the organizer at fb@csmbr.fondazionecomel.org or email info@csmbr.fondazionecomel.org with the subject “SUMMER SCHOOL 2021”

Eligible Countries
Host Country
Publish Date
December 28, 2020