Chitra Ramalingam F'09, F'08

Chitra  Ramalingam
Associate Curator
Photography, Center for British Art
Yale University

Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowships 2009
History of Science
Harvard University
The Science of Transience: Physics and the Visualization of Movement in Nineteenth-Century London
For residence at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH)

This project explores how the visual experience of transience became an experimental problem for scientists in nineteenth-century London. How and why did scientists learn to see things that moved too rapidly for the eye to apprehend, like sound vibrations or electric sparks? What epistemological problems did these ways of seeing the invisible provoke? This study examines how a group of scientists in London learned to manipulate the visual experience of transience in the laboratory, through imaging, optical instruments, and the exploitation of optical illusions. By focusing on observation, visualization, and image-making practices used to master transient phenomena, the project shows how the history of physics intersects surprisingly with the histories of photography, cinema, and the study of human vision.

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2008
Doctoral Candidate
History of Science
Harvard University
Electric Visions: A Visual History of the Electric Spark in Nineteenth-Century Britain

This dissertation follows the experimental life of the electric spark in nineteenth-century Britain. The perceptual challenges involved in observing the spark required the development of new visual techniques for analyzing movement, prompted new explorations of human vision and its limitations, and brought the spark in contact with a variety of visual media. Through a focus on practices of observation, visualization, and image-making around this recalcitrant transient phenomenon, the history of physics is shown to intersect importantly with the histories of photography, cinema, spiritualism, and the study of human vision.