History of Science and Scholarship in the Netherlands

In 2002 the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences established a series of scholarly publications on the history of science, scholarship and academic institutions in the Netherlands. The series includes studies on the history of different disciplines in the humanities and the sciences, relating to the situation in the Netherlands. This series, the editing of which is delegated to the Huygens Institute in Den Haag, is also accessible online. Aditionally, Amsterdam University Press in Amsterdam will publish the books under the imprint of KNAW-press.

Volumes published in the series History of Science and Scholarship in the Netherlands

  • 2012 Volume 13: Christoph Lüthy, David Gorlaeus (1591-1612) : An Enigmatic Figure in the History of Philosophy and Science. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 978 90 8964 438 1. Hardback, 226 pages.
  • When David Gorlaeus (1591-1612) passed away at 21 years of age, he left behind two highly innovative manuscripts. Once they were published, his work had a remarkable impact on the evolution of seventeenth-century thought.

    However, as his identity was unknown, divergent interpretations of their meaning quickly sprang up. Seventeenth-century readers understood him as an anti-Aristotelian thinker and as a precursor of Descartes. Twentieth-century historians depicted him as an atomist, natural scientist and even as a chemist. And yet, when Gorlaeus died, he was a beginning student in theology. His thought must in fact be placed at the intersection between philosophy, the nascent natural sciences, and theology.

    The aim of this book is to shed light on Gorlaeus’ family circumstances, his education at Franeker and Leiden, and on the virulent Arminian crisis which provided the context within which his work was written. It also attempts to define Gorlaeus’ place in the history of Dutch philosophy and to assess the influence that it exercised in the evolution of philosophy and science, and notably in early Cartesian circles. Christoph Lüthy is professor of the history of philosophy and science at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

  • 2010 Volume 12: Albert van Helden, Sven Dupré, Rob van Gent and Huib Zuidervaart, eds., The Origins of the Telescope. Proceedings of the conference ‘The invention of the Dutch telescope. Its origin and impact on science, culture and society, 1550?1650, held in Middelburg in September 2008. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 978 90 6984 615 6. Hardback, 376 pages. The origins of the telescope have been discussed and debated since shortly after the instrument’s appearance in The Hague in 1608. Civic and national pride have led local dignitaries, popular writers, and numerous scholars to search the archives and to constructsharplydivergent histories. Did the honor of the invention belong to the Dutch, to the Italians, to the English, or to the Spanish? And if the city of Middelburg in the Netherlands was, in fact, the cradle of the instrument,wasthe“true inventor” Hans Lipperhey or his rival Zacharias Jansen? Or was the instrument there before anyone knew it? Over the past several decades, a group of historians and scientists have sought out new documents, re?examined familiar ones, and tested early lenses and telescopes. This volume containsthe proceedings of a symposium held in Middelburg in September 2008 to mark 400 years of the telescope. The essays in it, taken as a whole, present a new and convincing account of the origins of the instrument that changed mankind’s vision of the universe.
  • 2009 Volume 11: Patricia Faasse, In Splendid Isolation: A History of the Willie Commelin Scholten Phytopathology Laboratory, 1894-1992. For almost a hundred years, the Willie Commelin Scholten Phytopathology Laboratory was the hub of phytopathology research in the Netherlands. Hundreds of students learned the principles of plant pathology there. The laboratory diagnosed and researched dozens of plant diseases, and its scientific reputation spread far beyond the country’s borders. In splendid isolation reconstructs the history of this unique institution, from its beginnings as a small private laboratory in the late nineteenth century to its final days as a renowned university research institute.
  • 2008 Volume 10: Dirk van Delft, Freezing Physics: Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and the Quest for Cold.

    In 1908, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853–1926) liquefied helium for the first time, briefly rendering his Dutch laboratory “the coldest place on earth.” Freezing Physics is the first book to tell the story of Leiden University’s famed cryogenics laboratory and the man behind it, whose scientific accomplishments earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1913.
    The central question in this book is how Kamerlingh Onnes was able to succeed so brilliantly in developing his cryogenics laboratory – undoubtedly an exceptional feat in terms of its scale and its almost industrial approach in the Netherlands of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A related question is what determined his success – his abilities as a scientist, his organisational talent, or his personality?
    This fascinating portrayal of Kamerlingh Onnes, the man and the scientist, traces his storied career from his first experiments with helium to his later work that opened up unexplored territories of extreme cold, magnetism, and thermodynamics — and cleared the path for the eventual discovery of superconductivity in 1911.
    Dirk van Delft studied physics at the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory. He is director of Museum Boerhaave for the History of Science and Medicine in Leiden and professor in the history of science at Leiden University.
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  • 2008 Volume 9: Lissa Roberts, Simon Schaffer and Peter Dear (editors),The mindful hand. Inquiry and invention from the late Renaissance to early industrialisation. Although manual labour and theoretical invention might now seem separate ventures, history teaches us that they are closely linked processes. The Mindful Hand explores innovative areas of European society between the late Renaissance and the period of early industrialisation where the enterprise of knowledge and production relied on the most intimate connexions of thought and toil. This volume explains how philosophers and labourers collaborated in an environment where artisans and instrument-makers, administrators and entrepreneurs simultaneously pioneered technical change alongside knowledge formation. The essays gathered here help show how these projects were pursued together, yet why, in retrospect, the very categories of science and technology emerged as seemingly distinct endeavors.
  • 2007 Volume 8: Florike Egmond, Paul Hoftijzer and Robert P.W. Visser (editors), Carolus Clusius. Towards a cultural history of a Renaissance naturalist. Carolus Clusius (Arras 1526-Leiden 1609) was one of the most eminent botanists of the European Renaissance. His name is closely connected with the introduction of many exotic plants in Europe, in particular the tulip. In this volume a group of distinguished scholars explore his role in both the botanical renaissance and the genesis of botany as a field of study. Clusius’ wide-ranging correspondence provides a rich source of information and documents the formation of the European community of naturalists. These interdisciplinary essays will fascinate anyone interested in natural history, the history of science, and Renaissance culture.
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  • 2005 Volume 7: Charles van den Heuvel, De Huysbou’ A reconstruction of an unfinished treatise on architecture, town planningand civil engineering by Simon Stevin. Simon Stevin (1548-1620) was one of the leading scholars of his day. As a scientist and engineer, he carved a career for himself in the breakaway Dutch Republic of the Northern Low Countries, developing theoretical innovations in mathematics and physics as well as practical innovations in civil engineering and military technology. Less well known is the project that Stevin worked on during the last twenty years of his life, a treatise on architecture and town planning. The earliest mention of Huysbou occurs in the first volume of Stevin’s work on mathematics and other natural sciences, Wisconstighe Ghedachtenissen (‘Mathematical Memoirs’), published in 1605. This book deals with Stevin’s unfinished, and until now only partly revealed architectural treatise. The discussion of the Huysbou opens by exploring Stevin’s visions on science and methods to explain the origins of the ideas contained in the work. The following chapters examine Stevin’s notions of symmetry and order in architecture, his views on building methods, the role of water and the use of visual presentations of architecture. Finally the commentary surveys Stevin’s contribution to architectural theory and the reputation enjoyed by Huysbou in the Low Countries and in the broader European context. The second section of the book presents Stevin’s work on architecture and town planning. A first attempt has made to recreate the envisaged Huysbou as accurately as possible. The third section contains the appendices: fragments of Stevin’s texts on architecture and town planning, a glossary and an extensive bibliography.
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  • 2005 Volume 6: Renée E. Kistemaker, Natalya P. Kopaneva, Debora J. Meijers and Georgy Vilinbakhov (editors),The Paper Museum of the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg c. 1725-1760, Introduction and Interpretation. In the early eighteenth century, Russian ruler Peter the Great established the Kunstkamera as the encyclopedic museum of the Academy of Sciences. This volume offers for the first time a complete detailed catalog of the approximately 2,200 surviving drawings of the objects in the museum’s collections. The result of a five-year research effort by distinguished Russian and Dutch scholars, this comprehensive work provides a wealth of insights into the original collection of the legendary Kunstkamera. The drawings cover a wide range of disciplines, from botany and anatomy to archaeology and Chinese objects, and were used to document the objects in the museum’s collections and to illustrate Academy members’ publications. The volume opens with four thematic essays that consider the historical and aesthetic significance of the drawings, and then nine subsequent sections discuss specific types of objects and feature numerous illustrations. A bilingual Russian-English DVD complements the volume with a detailed searchable catalogue and full-colour images of all the drawings.
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  • 2004 Volume 5: Jacques L.R. Touret and Robert P.W. Visser (editors), Dutch pioneers of the earth science. This book contains the papers presented at a symposium organized by the Dutch committee for the History of the Earth Sciences. The title examines a wide variety of subjects: the pioneering stratigraphic studies of the 18th-century naturalist Francq van Berkhey, Dutch contributions to the basalt controversy, geology in the Belgian provinces, the geology lectures (1863) of Staring and his geological map of the Netherlands, the mineral work of Hermann Vogelsang, the Maastricht Cretaceous finds in the emergence of Dutch vertebrate palaeontology, and the founding of groundwater hydrology in the Netherlands (1850-1950). It also features an unpublished mineralogical treatise of Wiechmann. As a bonus the book has an interesting study on the suitability of Haüy’s crystal models to identify minerals, preceded by an historical analysis of the role these models played in the birth of crystallography and mineralogy.
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  • 2003 Volume 4: Johanna Levelt Sengers, How fluids unmix. Discoveries by the school of Van der Waals and Kamerlingh Onnes. This book narrates the story of pioneering scientists in the Netherlands, who reached a profound and comprehensive understanding of fluid mixture criticality and phase separation within a brief time span around the end of the nineteenth century. This achievement was the consequence of the felicitous collaboration of two Dutch physicists and Nobel prize winners, Johannes Diderik van der Waals (1837-1923) at the University of Amsterdam, and Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926) at the University of Leiden. Processes of mixing and separation of fluids, underlying almost all production methods in the chemical industry, can be surprisingly complex. Throughout most of the 19th century, the mechanism of phase separation of pressurized fluid mixture remained a mystery. In 1890, Van der Waals, by generalizing his famous equation of state to fluid mixtures, brought Gibbs’s abstract thermodynamics to practical application. The Amsterdam mathematician Korteweg provided the mathematical underpinnings. Van der Waals’ mixture equation inspired a major experimental effort by Kamerlingh Onnes and his collaborators Kuenen, Keesom, and Verschaffelt. They discovered various types of binary fluid phase separation; the Amsterdam chemist Van Laar classified these by means of the Van der Waals equation. Between 1890 and 1906, the Dutch School reached an understanding of phase behavior and criticality of fluid mixtures that was far ahead of its time. Much of their work would be rediscovered or resumed only in the second half of the twentieth century, when research on liquids and critical phenomena flourished anew. This book is organized by topics, such as the law of corresponding states and its relevance to gas liquefaction, fluid criticality and the controversies surrounding it, and the various types of binary fluid phase behavior. Each topic is treated in some depth, including the scientific questions, the methodology, and the connection to modern work. The book contains plentiful bibliographical references, as well as biographical information. A closing chapter traces the intellectual impact of the Dutch School on modern science and technology.
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  • 2002 Volume 3: Rina Knoeff, Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) Calvinist chemist and physician. Herman Boerhaave, holder of three professorships in medicine, botany and chemistry at the University of Leiden, was the most important medical teacher after Galen. His fame reached all over Europe and further afield. Reputedly, a letter from China addressed to “Mr. Boerhaave, Physician in Europe” was even delivered to Boerhaave’s doorstep. Boerhaave was also known as a very religious man. Yet, historians of science and medicine have not paid much attention to Boerhaave’s Calvinism. They have stressed the mechanical aspects of his medicine but have neglected his religious beliefs and those of his viewpoints that are alien to modern science. However, this book shows that Boerhaave’s natural philosophy – his chemistry and alchemy as well as their uses in medicine – and methodology are all rooted in his Calvinism. In particular, Boerhaave’s ideas on the divine nature of fire, the chemical theory of menstrua and the idea of seminal principles demonstrate that Boerhaave presented a Calvinist picture of the world in which the wisdom of God can be seen in the powers peculiar to every creature.
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  • 2002 Volume 2: Gerhard Wiesenfeldt, Leerer Raum in Minervas Haus. Experimentelle Naturlehre an der Universität Leiden, 1675-1715.Experimentelle Naturlehre spielte bei der Institutionalisierung der neuen Naturwissenschaften in der zweiten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts eine zentrale Rolle; ihr wichtigstes Instrument – die Luftpumpe – wurde zum Emblem der veränderten Sichtweise auf die Natur. In Leerer Raum in Minervas Haus zeichnet Gerhard Wiesenfeldt die Geschichte des Fachs und seines Instruments an der Universität Leiden nach. In einer Zeit schwerer politischer, wirtschaftlicher und intellektueller Krisen eingeführt, wurden die Luftpumpenexperimente und das Theatrum physicum schnell zu einem unverzichtbaren Bestandteil des universitären Lebens. Durch Beschränkung auf die Untersuchung unmittelbar sichtbarer Erscheinungen boten die Experimente einen Ausweg aus den Konflikten zwischen konservativen Calvinisten und Cartesianern, die die Universität zuvor gelähmt hatten. Sowohl der konservative Philosoph Wolferd Senguerd wie der Cartesianer Burchard de Volder konnten die Experimente so problemlos in ihre Vorlesungen einbauen. Allerdings blieb für beide die Beschäftigung mit dem Vakuum nicht ohne Folgen für ihre philosophischen Grundüberzeugungen. Ohne daß die Akteure die beabsichtigt hätten, prägte die Luftpumpe so die Naturphilosophie an der Universität Leiden und dadurch auch die beginnenden niederländische Aufklärung.
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  • 2002 Volume 1: Rienk Vermij, The Calvinist Copernicans. The reception of the new astronomy in the Dutch Republic, 1575-1750.The new astronomy of Nicolaas Copernicus, published in 1543, had an enormous impact on intellectual life in early modern Europe, but the reception of his new ideas differed fundamentally from one country to another. In the Dutch Republic, heavily dominated by the Calvinist church, the Copernican system only became a real issue in the course of the seventeenth century. Initially the discussion was dominated by humanist scholars with an interest in mathematics, who judged Copernicus’ work on its own merits. By the middle of the seventeenth century it came to be seen as a touch-stone of Cartesian natural philosophy, and was considered highly controversial for religious reasons, both within and without the universities. As a consequence, people no longer bothered about astronomical details, but just made a choice from current world systems on philosophical or religious grounds. These controversies were partly of a political nature and subsided only in the course of the eighteenth century. This book discusses the initial reception of Copernicus’ ‘new astronomy’ in the Dutch Republic and shows how its position changed from an alternative world view to an established concept.
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The Editorial Board

  • Prof Dr K. van Berkel (chair, University of Groningen)
  • Prof Dr W.Th.M. Frijhoff (Free University Amsterdam)
  • Prof Dr A. van Helden (Utrecht University)
  • Prof Dr W.E. Krul (University of Groningen)
  • Prof Dr A. de Swaan (Amsterdamse School of Sociological Research)
  • Prof Dr R.P.W. Visser (Utrecht University) [2002-2009]
  • Prof.Dr. W.W. Mijnhardt (Utrecht University) [2009-
  • Prof. Dr. D. van Delft (Leiden University) [2009-