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Knowledge and Culture in the Early Dutch Republic

Isaac Beeckman in Context

486 pages
Amsterdam University Press
The Dutch Republic around 1600 was a laboratory of the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. Here conditions were favourable for the development of new ways of knowing nature and the natural philosopher Isaac Beeckman, who was born in Middelburg in 1588, was a seminal figure in this context. He laid the groundwork for the strictly mechanical philosophy that is at the heart of the new science. Descartes and others could build on what they learned, directly or indirectly, from Beeckman. As previous studies have mainly dealt with the scientific content of Beeckman’s thinking, this volume also explores the wider social, scientific and cultural context of his work. Beeckman was both a craftsman and a scholar and fruitfully combined artisanal ways of knowing with international scholarly traditions. Beeckman’s extensive private notebook offers a unique perspective on the cultures of knowledge that emerged in this crucial period in intellectual history.
Author Bio
Klaas van Berkel recently retired as Rudolf Agricola professor of history at the University of Groningen. In his research he focuses on cultural history and the history of science, especially the history of scientific institutions (academies, universities). In 2021 he published, with Guus Termeer, The University of Groningen in the World. A Concise History (Amsterdam: Pallas Publications). Albert Clement is Professor of Musicology (University of Utrecht), Professor of Theology and Music (Theological University of Apeldoorn), organist and theologian. He was deeply involved in setting up Utrecht University’s International Honours College in Middelburg in the years 2003-2004, and introduced Performing Arts in the Dutch university system. He published widely on the history of music from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, notably on Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn Bartoldy, and supervises a large international circle of PhD students. Arjan van Dixhoorn is Hurgronje Professor by special appointment for the History of Zeeland in the World at Utrecht University and teaches history at its international honours college, University College Roosevelt, in Middelburg. He was FWO-research fellow at the universities of Antwerp and Ghent from 2005 until 2014. His publications investigate the early modern history of public opinion and the social history of knowledge, with a focus on the role of vernacular literary cultures in Europe. John A. Schuster is Honorary Reader, School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sidney, and Honorary Research Fellow, Campion College, Sydney. He has published extensively on Descartes, the Scientific Revolution, the myth of the scientific method, and historiographical issues. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. H. Floris Cohen is Emeritus Professor in Comparative History of Science at Utrecht University, and is affiliated with the Descartes Centre at that university. From mid-2014 to mid-2019 he served as the Society Editor of the History of Science Society. His opus magnum is How Modern Science Came into the World: Four Civilizations, One 17th-Century Breakthrough(Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010). Tiemen Cocquyt is curator in early modern science at the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, Leiden. He specializes in the history of optical instrumentation, combining historical research with modern measurement techniques. The research for the article in this volume was made possible through the support of NWO-Humanities, Museumbeurzen, grant no. 333.54.004. Édouard Mehl is Full Professor of Philosophy and Science in the Early Modern Period at the University of Strasbourg (France). He recently publi_x0002_shed a work on Descartes’ cosmology: Descarteset la fabrique du Monde. Le Problème cosmologique de Copernic à Descartes (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2019). The book was distinguished with the Moron Prize of the Académie Française (2020). Elisabeth Moreau is an FNRS Postdoctoral Fellow at the ULB – Université Libre de Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium). Trained in the history and philoso_x0002_phy of science, she works on medicine, alchemy, and matter theory in late Renaissance Europe Dániel Moerman is a PhD candidate in the NWO-sponsored project ‘Coping with Drought: An Environmental History of Drinking Water and Climate Adaptation in the Netherlands, 1550-1850’ at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. He specializes in the sociocultural approaches to crisis and resilience in the early modern period, both on a personal and on a societal level. His most recent publication is a co-authored chapter on the experiences of cross-border nobleman and chronicler Sweder Schele during the Eighty Years’ War and the Thirty Years’ War in R. Fagel et al., eds., Early Modern War Narratives and the Revolt in the Low Countries (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020). Samuel Le Gendre is a PhD student under the supervision of Sophie Roux at l’Ecole Normale supérieure-Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (ENS-PSL). He is studying the link between the discovery of the principle of inertia and the idea that there is a right to live in the seventeenth century. Fabrizio Baldassarri (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Indiana University Bloomington) is an intellectual historian, working on the natural philosophical studies of plants in the early modern period. He currently holds a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship. He recently published articles on the study of plants in seventeenth-century Dutch culture in the British Journal for the History of Science, Early Science and Medicine, and Perspectives on Science, a monograph on Descartes’ medical studies, and has edited (with Andreas Blank) Vegetative Powers: The Roots of Life in Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Natural History (Cham: Springer, 2021) Huib Zuidervaart is a retired senior researcher at the Huygens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam. He published widely on early modern science, especially with regard to the role of scientific instruments, scholarly institutions, and the Dutch province of Zeeland (where he lived for 23 years). Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis is Associate Professor in the History of Science at the University of Twente and Louise Thijssen-Schoute, Professor in Early Modern History of Knowledge at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Originally specializing in seventeenth-century optics, his interests have broadened to encompass the cultural history of knowledge in the early modern period. He is particularly interested in practical, useful, and artefactual ways of knowing. He is the author of ‘The Wise Origins of the Consten: Stevin and Sixteenth-Century Debates on Arts, Mathematics and Language’, in Karel Davids et al., eds., Rethinking Stevin, Stevin Rethinking: Constructions of a Dutch Polymath (Leiden: Brill, 2020), pp. 182-205. Vera Keller is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Oregon. She is a historian of science and of knowledge in early modern Europe and is the author of Knowledge and the Public Interest, 1575-1725 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). Semra Meray completed her bachelor’s degree in linguistics and literature at University College Roosevelt (Middelburg) in 2018 and afterwards specialized in forensic linguistics in the research master’s programme at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.