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Modeling the Sources and the Topics of Pliny’s Natural History

July 30, 2020, 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

The program

Pliny’s Natural History, published in Venice in 1472, is the oldest scientific book in Library’s collection. The book is a large-scale encyclopedia containing more than 1.1 million words from the first century CE that provides a snapshot of scientific knowledge in the Roman Empire with sections devoted to topics such as math, geography, geology, zoology, botany, anthropology, and an important overview of the history of Greek art.   

While scholars have used the Natural History as an ad hoc source for investigations about specific aspects of scientific knowledge in the Roman Empire, it is much more difficult to define the broader models that unify the work’s disparate parts because of its size and scope. Quantitative and computational text technologies provide a methodology that help us understand the nature of this monumental compendium of scientific knowledge from the Roman Empire and allow us to answer specific questions such as the nature of sources that were used, the interrelations of the topics covered in the text, and the ways that these topics have been adopted or reflected in the publication history of the work.  

For this presentation, Dr. Jeff Rydberg-Cox will discuss the nature of Pliny’s work, how other scholars and editors have tried to make this massive work more manageable, and then talk about the ways that network analysis and other quantitative approaches can help us understand the sources that Pliny used when writing his work.

The speaker

Jeff Rydberg-Cox, the Library’s first-ever Scholar-in-Residence,is a Curators’ Distinguished Professor in the Department of English, director of the Classical and Ancient Studies program, director of the First Semester Experience program, and an Affiliated Faculty member in the Department of Computer Science at UMKC. He received his BA from Colorado College in Classics, History, and Politics. He holds an MA and PhD from the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World at the University of Chicago. Prior to joining UMKC, he served as Assistant Editor for Language and Lexicography at The Perseus Project; based at Tufts University. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the European Commission, and the National Library of Medicine. His research and publications focus on digital humanities and the computation analysis of ancient Greek texts. Professor Rydberg-Cox regularly teaches courses on ancient literature, digital humanities, and representations of the ancient world in film.

Accessing the Program

This free, livestream program will take place via Zoom. Registration is currently open and will remain open until the event has ended. After you register you will receive an email with a link to join the session. To help us better serve our audiences, we have included some demographic questions in the registration form. Your response to these questions is voluntary but appreciated.  Thank you! 

Click here to register

The Linda Hall Library encourages people of all backgrounds and abilities to participate in our public programs.  Closed captioning is provided.  If you require additional reasonable accommodations in order to participate, please contact events@lindahall.org or call 816.926.8753 at least 24 hours in advance of the event. 

Once you register for this event, you will receive email communications from the Linda Hall Library and the Linda Hall Library Foundation. You may choose to opt out of these communications at any time. Your contact information will not be sold or provided to any third parties. 

This program is funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. 
Its content is solely the responsibility of the Linda Hall Library. 

The lecture will also livestream on the Library’s Facebook page.

Further reading at the Linda Hall Library




July 30, 2020
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Eric Ward
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Questions? Contact Eric Ward at 816.926.8753 for more information about these events.

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