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Electricity in Eighteenth-Century Holland: A Newtonian Legacy

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

Abstract

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

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Electrical Theory Natural Philosopher Experimental Philosophy Electrical Research 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See the few selected references in this paper for the primary (and other secondary) sources. I.B. Cohen, The Newtonian Revolution. Canmbridge University Press, 1980.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    W.D. Hackmann, ‘Instrumentation in Theory and Practice of Science: Scientific Instruments as Evidence and as an Aid to Discovery,’ Annali dell’Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze, 10 (1985), pp. 110–112;Google Scholar
  3. 2a.
    C. de Pater, Petrus van Musschenbroek (1692–1761) een Newtoniaans Natuuronderzoeker. Utrecht: printed doctoral thesis, 1979, pp. 57–121.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    R.W. Home, ‘Newton on Electricity and the Aether,’ in Z. Bechler, ed., Contemporary Newtonian Research. Dordrecht and Boston: Reidel Publishing Company, 1982, pp. 191–213.Google Scholar
  5. W.J.’s Gravesande, Mathematical Elements of Natural Philosophy, Confirmed by Experiments; or an Introduction to Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy. London, 1721, vol. 2, p. 7.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    W.D. Hackmann, Electricity from Glass, the Development of the Frictional Electrical Machine 1600–1850. Alphen aan den Rijn: Sijthoff & Noordhoff, 1978, pp. 90–103.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    W.D. Hackmann, John and Jonathan Cutbhertson. The Invention and Development of the Eighteenth-Century Plate Electrical Machine. Leiden: Communication no. 142 of the Rijksmuseum voor de Geschiedenis der Natuurwetenschappen, 1973.Google Scholar
  8. W.D. Hackmann, ‘Electrical Researches,’ in R.J. Forbes, ed., Martinus van Marum. Life and Work. Haarlem: Tjeenk Willink & Zoon for the Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, 1971, vol. 3, pp. 329–378.Google Scholar
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    J. Cuthbertson, Practical Electricity and Galvanism containing a Series of Experiments calculated for the Use of those who are desirous of becoming acquainted with that branch of Science. London, 1807, p. 1.Google Scholar
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  11. see also H.A.M. Snelders, ‘The Amsterdam Experiment on the Analysis and Synthesis of Water (1789),’ Ambix, 26 (1979), pp. 116–133Google Scholar
  12. T.H. Levere, ‘Martinus van Marum and the Introduction of Lavoisier’s Chemistry into the Netherlands,’ in R.J. Forbed, ed., Martinus van Marum. Life and Work. Haarlem:Tjeenk Willink & Zoon for the Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, 1969, vol 1, pp. 158–286.Google Scholar
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    J.L. Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th & 18th Centuries. A Study of Early Modern Physics. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1979, pp. 324–446Google Scholar
  14. 10a.
    R.W. Home (introductory monograph) and P.J. Connor (translation), Aepinus’s Essay on the Theory of Electricity and Magnetism. Princeton University Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  15. 11.
    R.W. Home, ‘Franklin’s Electrical Atmospheres,’ British Journal for the History of Science, 6 (1972), pp. 131–151;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 11a.
    see also R.W. Home, The Effluvial Theory of Electricity. New York: Arno Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  17. 12.
    W.D. Hackmann, ‘The Researches of Martinus van Marum (1750–1837) on the Influence of Electricity on Animals and Plants,’ Medical History 16 (1971), pp. 11–26;Google Scholar
  18. 12a.
    see also W.D. Hackmann, ‘The Relationship between Concept and Instrument Design in Eighteenth-Century Experimental Science,’ Annals of Science 36 (1979), pp. 205–224; and (in press) ‘Scientific Instruments: Models of Brass and Tangible Signposts to the Art of the Possible,’ in D. Gooding, S. Schaffer and T. Pinch, Cambridge University Press; Heilbron (see footnote 1), pp. 449–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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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