skip to primary navigationskip to content

Eleanor Chan

Eleanor Chan

Eleanor Chan

St Catharine's College

Research Area: Mathematics and the Craft of Thought in England and the Low Countries, c. 1570-1630.

Supervisor: Dr Alexander Marr


PhD Title: Mathematics and the Craft of Thought in England and the Low Countries, c. 1570 - 1630.


Eleanor Chan is a PhD candidate funded by St Catharine's College and supervised by Dr. Alexander Marr. Her research focuses on the twin aesthetic and intellectual ramifications of the abstract and diagrammatic modes of visualization which developed in Europe across the late 16th and early 17th centuries, with a focus on England and the Netherlands. She is particularly interested in the questions of how and why abstraction became a more explicitly cognitive way of depicting than figurative imagery, and the relationship between intellectual and material cultures. Her PhD explores these questions through examining the development of a coherent system of mathematical visualisation around 1600, focusing around the categories of the geometrical point, line, and surface.

Before beginning her PhD, Eleanor studied for an MA in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art under the supervision of Professors Joanna Woodall and Eric Jorink, where she was awarded a distinction for her dissertation on Florentius Schuyl's illustrations for Descartes' Treatise on Man. She received a double first in her BA in English from the University of Cambridge in 2012.

Key Publications

'Believing is Seeing' (in collaboration with Formulate Media, Cambridge Shorts and the Wellcome Trust).


Mathematicized Bodies: Mathematics and the Craft of Thought in England and the Low Countries around 1600 (monograph of my doctoral dissertation, in progress).

Fantasia on a Harpsichord Case: The Allegorische Voorstelling van Amsterdam of Pieter Isaacsz(under consideration at Art History).

The Beholders Share: Reading Visual Tropes and Musical Notation in Early Modern Europe, (accepted to AI & Society, forthcoming 2018). 

‘The Vital Breath: Mathematical Visualizations in England and the Low Countries c. 1600’, chapter in Ad Vivum: Visual Materials and the Vocabulary of Lifelikeness in Europe before 1800 ed. Joanna Woodall and Thomas Balfe (Brill: Intersections, forthcoming 2018).

'Beautiful Surfaces: Style and Substance in Florentius Schuyl's Illustrations for Descartes' Treatise on Man', in Nuncius: Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science, (Vol. 31 Issue 2, June 2016).