Electricity in Eighteenth-Century Holland: A Newtonian Legacy

  • W. D. Hackmann
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 123)


A follower of Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle in his empirical approach was largely responsible for the transformation of Dutch Cartesian rationalism into the experimental philosophy of the late seventeenth century. The next transformation was into Newtonian physics. Isaac Newton’s Principia (1687) and the Opticks (1704) were studied in the Dutch Republic as soon as they became available by such influential natural philosophers as Christiaan Huygens, Buchardus de Voider and Bernard Nieuwentyt, but the first comprehensive textbook based on the Newtonian methodology was Willem Jacob’s Gravesande’s Physices elementa mathematica, experimentis confirmata. Sive Introductio ad Philosohiam Newtoniam (1720–1). He wrote that he was proud to follow in the footsteps of his master. This is not the place to delve into the complexities of the philosophical and scientific background of Newton’s two seminal works, apart from the broad generalization that they united two approaches to the study of natural mathematical analysis (abstraction) and experimentation.1


Eighteenth Century Electrical Theory Natural Philosopher Experimental Philosophy Electrical Research 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. D. Hackmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Museum of the History of ScienceUniversity of OxfordEngland

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