Geraldine Kennedy Opens Research Institute at NUI Galway

Thursday, 2 November 2006

02 November 2006: Geraldine Kennedy, editor of the Irish Times, will officially open the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies at NUI Galway on Tuesday 7 November. The institute provides scholars an opportunity to engage in research and innovative thinking to promote the better appreciation of human cultural and social achievements in past centuries, and the enrichment and improvement of our world today. It is called after the Moore family of Moore Hall in County Mayo whose members, in successive generations, sponsored such change in the west of Ireland over the course of four centuries.

The official opening will be followed by the inaugural lecture at the Institute entitled 'The Natural History of the Atlantic World'. This is a free event to which the general public are invited. In this illustrated lecture Professor Nicholas Canny, Academic Director of the Moore Institute, will investigate how, between the 1560s and the1720s, scientific writers in Northern Europe absorbed new knowledge about the peoples and resources of the Americas that had come within their reach through the process of discovery and exploration.

Speaking about the new Institute, President of NUI Galway, Dr. Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh commented, "Research in the humanities is more important than ever in our Irish society which has changed so rapidly over the last number of years and continues to evolve on many levels. The social sciences allow us to understand not only our own culture, but also our responsibilities as citizens of the global village. The Moore Institute will develop the best scholars from around the world and imbue them with the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to Ireland's social and economic fabric."

The opening of the Institute will also be marked by seminars on the morning of the 7 November at NUI Galway on topics such as Connacht Landed Estates 1700-1920; Thomas Moore Hypermedia Archive and TEXTE - Transfer of Expertise in Technologies of Editing.

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Information for Editors : The Natural History of the Atlantic World.

In this illustrated lecture Professor Nicholas Canny, Academic Director of the Moore Institute, NUI Galway, will investigate how, between the 1560s and the 1720s, scientific writers in Northern Europe absorbed new knowledge about the peoples and resources of the Americas that had come within their reach through the process of discovery and exploration. He will also consider how successive authors of texts suggested how more efficient use might be made of these resources for the betterment of all humanity. He will commence by explaining that the terms Natural History and Cosmography, which were in common use during these centuries, corresponded roughly with the terms Anthropology and Ethnography as these are used today meaning the study of human beings in relation to their natural environments.

The lecture will commence with the attempts made by French, English and Dutch adventurers to establish settlements in Brazil, Florida, and on Roanoke Island (off the coast of North Carolina) during the late sixteenth century and on how these were reported upon both individually by participants and compositely in the illustrated 4 volume America by Theodore de Bry published from Frankfurt and translated into most major European vernaculars as well as in Latin during the early decades of the seventeenth century. From there it will proceed to discuss how for a brief interlude after 1604, a year that marked the cessation of military hostilities between Spain and several of the Northern European powers, adventurers from these countries first began to spill over into the Americas and then to take account of earlier Natural Histories of the Americas that had been written by Spanish authors. This will lead to a discussion of Natural Histories composed by a sequence of French and English authors who emulated these Spanish model texts. These more recent authors wrote principally of the peoples and resources of the islands of the West Indies and of the coastal areas of Canada.

Special attention will be given to the writings of the French Dominican priests J.B. Du Tertre and J.B. Labat but the lecture will culminate with a consideration of the contribution to Natural History, and particularly that of the island of Jamaica, made by Sir Hans Sloane at the outset of the eighteenth century. This will show how he absorbed everything that had been written by his predecessors of whatever nationality, and it will make the case for Sloane being considered the first modern scientist.

The lecture will be organized around the appraisals made by these authors of the resources that America offered to Europe, and around the illustrations they provided of plants, animals, and peoples in the places with which they had become familiar. It will take account both those that were native to the areas and those that had been introduced by Europeans and Africans from other parts of the globe. Attention will also be given to the descriptions and illustrations successive authors supplied of the production and processing of marketable commodities notably tobacco, cotton, cassava, sugar, fish and furs.

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