“So Fair a Subterraneous City”: Mining, Maps, and the Politics of Geometry in the Seventeenth Century
In the aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), the mining regions of Central Europe underwent numerous technical and political evolutions. In this context, the role of underground geometry expanded considerably: drawing mining maps and working on them became widespread in the second half of the seventeenth century. The new mathematics of subterranean surveyors finally realized the old dream of “seeing through stones,” gradually replacing alternative tools such as written reports of visitations, wood models, or commented sketches.

I argue that the development of new cartographic tools to visualize the underground was deeply linked to broad changes in the political structure of mining regions. In Saxony, arguably the leading mining region, captain-general Abraham von Schönberg (1640–1711) put his weight and reputation behind the new geometrical technology, hoping that its acceptance would in turn help him advance his reform agenda. At-scale representations were instrumental in justifying new investments, while offering technical road maps to implement them.
Date: 9 June 2022, 16:00 (Thursday, 7th week, Trinity 2022)
Venue: Shulman Auditorium, The Queen's College
Speaker: Thomas Morel (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
Organising department: Mathematical Institute
Organiser: Christopher Hollings (University of Oxford)
Organiser contact email address: christopher.hollings@maths.ox.ac.uk
Part of: History of Mathematics Seminar
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Christopher Hollings