Essays on Science and SocietyPERCEPTIONS OF SCIENCE

Face Values: How Portraits Win Friends and Influence People

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Science  07 Feb 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5608, pp. 831-832
DOI: 10.1126/science.1079668

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Does it matter what a scientist looks like? Isaac Newton and his colleagues were just as media conscious as their successors, and this article focuses on Godfrey Kneller's 1689 portrait to explore how Newton fashioned his public image. Historians can study propaganda of the past by examining who received and sent portraits and--equally significantly--which ones were chosen for distribution. Pictures are still important advertising devices, as they reveal science's face as well as the sitter's.