As of July 6th, APS offices are open to staff and invited visitors. The Society will remain closed to the public until further notice. Library & Museum staff now have access to our collections and will respond to reference and photoduplication requests as soon as possible. However, please note that response times may be delayed due to increased demand. The Society will continue a robust slate of virtual programs throughout the fall. Read more about virtual programming and resources that can be accessed remotely. For further information on the APS reopening and its COVID response, please click here.

Through the Looking Lens: Cornelius Varley’s Wondrous Images of Art and Science, 1800-1860

May 17 – December 29, 2013
104 S. Fifth Street

Down the Rabbit Hole with Cornelius Varley
When Lewis Carroll sent Alice down the rabbit hole, he imagined a drink that would make her smaller than a mouse and a cake that would extend her body to the size of “the largest telescope that ever was.”

Through the Looking Lens highlighted stunning watercolors by British artist/inventor Cornelius Varley (1781-1873) that range from vast panoramas rendered small to microscopic algae writ large. But unlike the enchantments of Carroll’s imagination, Varley’s wondrous images were of real things. He captured them before the advent of photography, using drawing instruments he invented, along with optical lenses he crafted and employed with great skill.

Varley is known as an artist, but this exhibition was the first ever to showcase him as the inventor and maker of drawing instruments integral to his artistic and scientific practices. Through the Looking Lens revealed the full breadth of Varley’s work at the intersection of art and science. Similar to many early APS members in the 18th and 19th centuries—polymaths such as Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Smith Barton, David Rittenhouse, and Alexander Bache—Varley effortlessly traversed the boundaries of multiple disciplines, propelled by his enormous inquisitiveness. Like Carroll’s Alice, Varley was “curiouser and curiouser.”