World-Views: Art and Canonical Images in the Geographical and Life Sciences

  • Peter Vujaković
Part of the Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography book series (LNGC)


Alan MacEachern, in his seminal ‘How maps work’, notes how certain representations, which he refers to as ‘master images’, have the power to popularize key scientific concepts and theories that are otherwise difficult to comprehend; he quotes the image of the double-helix as critical in the science of genetics. From a somewhat different perspective, the evolutionary paleontologist, Stephen J. Gould, discusses the construction of ‘canonical’ images of ‘deep time’ (past environments) and classic evolutionary iconographies, such as the ‘tree of life’. Gould points to the hidden agendas in many of these images, for example, the anthropocentric concept of evolution as inherently ‘progressive’. Maps provide examples of similar prejudices and power relations, for example, between global ‘north and south’, or Eurocentrism. This chapter examines the central importance of maps and other graphics as ‘canonical images’ in the geographical and life sciences, and the role of art in their making and propagation of a message. The key role of artistic input in creating apparently concrete or naturalised representations of abstract concepts, and in particular their role in pedagogic and popular representations, is explored. This study suggests there are fruitful connections to be made in studying the representations across a range of disciplines in the geographic, earth and life sciences.


Popular Medium Master Image British Broadcasting Corporation Canonical Image National Geographic Magazine 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Vujaković
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geographical and Life SciencesCanterbury Christ Church UniversityUK

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