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Error in the Age of Thomas Browne - One-day Conference

This conference was held at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick, on Friday 7th June 2019.

This one-day conference gathered international specialists from various disciplines. Our keynote speaker was Dr Kathryn Murphy, University of Oxford, with her lecture: 'Righting and Rewriting Browne's Philosophical Style'.

Here is the CFP:

In 1646, the polymath and physician Thomas Browne published his great work on error: Pseudodoxia Epidemica. He sought to correct popular misconceptions, such as that beavers bite off their own testicles when fleeing attack (III.IV). Browne was following a new European movement of error correction, including Laurent Joubert’s Erreurs populaires (1578); Girolamo Mercurii’s De gli errori popolari d’Italia (1603, 1645, 1658); and James Primrose’s De Vulgi in Medicina Erroribus (1639, 1651). Writers gave unprecedented attention to ‘error’ in all categories of thought, from medicine and superstition, to the natural world and astronomy.

At the same time, new technology provided unimagined opportunity for the correction of faulty belief. Natural philosophers peered through the microscope discovering the intricate details of a flea, and through telescopes they saw the moons of Jupiter and Saturn’s rings. What happened to error in the age of science, where accuracy, standardisation and rectitude became increasingly prized? Was there a relation between the growing demand for accurate information and the creeping standardisation of printed texts? How did the status of error differ across intellectual contexts?

Topics to be discussed may include but are not limited to:

  • Miscalculations
  • Faulty images
  • Error defined by errare, as wandering
  • Correction and its failures
  • Error and the material book
  • Humanist and religious conceptions of error
  • Technology and experimentation

The conference is free and MA and PhD students are encouraged to attend.

Any queries please contact Dr Alice Leonard at alice dot leonard at ell dot ox dot ac dot uk.

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Allegory of Error
 Allegory of Error by Antoine Coypel (1661-1722)

Conference Programme

Conference Poster

Friday 7th June 2019

Institute of Advanced Study, Milburn House (First Floor)
University of Warwick

Directions to Milburn House
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For information about reaching the University of Warwick by bus, train, or car (also info about visitor parking), see: