Empirical Support for the Corpuscular Theory in the Seventeenth Century

  • Christoph Meinel
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 195)


The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the empirical content and experimental foundation of the early seventeenth-century corpuscular hypothesis. Supported by ontological, epistemological, and mathematical arguments, observational and experimental evidence played an important part in creating those patterns of thought that were instrumental in the transformation and, eventually, acceptance of the corpuscular theory of matter.


Seventeenth Century Experimental Philosophy Active Spirit Simple Distillation Mechanical Philosophy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    In particular Kurd Lasswitz, Geschichte der Atomistik vom Mittelalter bis Newton ,2 vols, (Hamburg/Leipzig 1890).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hélène Metzger, Les doctrines chimiques en France du début du XVIIe à la fin du XVIIIe siècle [1923] (Paris: Blanchard, 1969)Google Scholar
  3. 2a.
    G. B. Stones, “The Atomic View of Matter in the XVth, XVIth, and XVIIth Centuries,” Isis 10 (1928), 445–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 2b.
    Marie Boas, “The Establishment of the Mechanical Philosophy,” Osiris 10 (1952), 412–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 2c.
    Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, The Architecture of Matter [1962] (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1982), pp. 137–200Google Scholar
  6. 2d.
    Ugo Baldini, “Il corpusco-larismo italiano del Seicento: Problemi di metodo e prospettive di ricerca,” in: Ricerche sull’atomismo del Seicento ,Pubblicazioni del ‘Centro di Studi del Pensiero Filosofico del Cinquecento e del Seicento in Relazione ai Problemi della Scienza’ I,9 (Firenze: Nuova Italia, 1977), pp. 1–76.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Claudius Berigardus, Circulus Pisanus de veteri et peripatetica philosophia [1643] (Padova 1661), IV.8., pp. 421–422.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Daniel Sennertus, Hypomnemata Physica [1636], in: Danielis Sennerti Opera Omnia ,vol. I (Lyon 1656), pp. 100–172, Hypomnema III. De atomis et mistione 1.1., p. 118.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Alfred Stückelberger, Antike Atomphysik: Texte zur antiken Atomlehre und ihrer Wiederaufnahme in der Neuzeit (München: Heimeran, 1979), p. 282–285.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Walter Charleton, Physiologia Epicuro-Gassendo-Charltoniana (London 1654), II.4., p. 114.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Petrus Gassendi, Syntagma philosophicum, in: Petri Gassendi Opera omnia in sex tomos divisa ,Vol. I (Lyon 1658), I.3.5., p. 265.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Alfred Stückelberger, “Lucretius reviviscens: Von der antiken zur neuzeitlichen Atomphysik,” Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 54 (1972), 1–25, here on p. 19Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    Jacobus Gaffarellus, Curiositez inouyez, hoc est: Curiositates inauditae [1629] (Hamburg/Amsterdam 1678), pp. 97–99Google Scholar
  14. 12a.
    JLynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science ,vol. VII (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), pp. 304–309.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    Iosephus Quercetanus, Ad veritatem Hermeticae medicinae ... responsio (Paris 1604), pp. 292–294.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Petrus Gassendi, Animadversiones in decimum librum Diogenis Laertii ,2 vols. (Lyon 1649), I, p. 207Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    Henry Power, Experimental Philosophy ... in Avouchement and Illustration of the now famous Atomical Hypothesis (London 1664), part I, sig. b2r, c2v-[c3r].Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    Hans Kangro, “Erklärungswert und Schwierigkeiten der Atomhypothese und ihrer Anwendung auf chemische Probleme in der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts,” Technikgeschichte 35 (1968), 13–36, here p. 20.Google Scholar
  19. 23.
    Edward Grant, Much Ado About Nothing: Theories of Space and Vacuum from the Middle Ages to the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge/London/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum, I.34. [1627], in: The Works of Francis Bacon ,ed. by James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, Vol. II (London 1859), p. 354.Google Scholar
  21. 28.
    Johannes Baptista Morinus, De atomis et vacuo contra Petri Gassendi Philosophiam Epicuream (Paris 1650), p. 19–20.Google Scholar
  22. 30.
    Galileo Galilei, Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche [1638], in: Le Opere di Galileo Galilei ,Edizione Nazionale, vol. VIII (Firenze: Barbera, 1965), p. 59.Google Scholar
  23. 35.
    W. Subow, “Zur Geschichte des Kampfes zwischen dem Atomismus und dem Aristotelismus im 17. Jahrhundert (Minima naturalia und Mixtio),” in: Sowjetische Beiträge zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaft ,ed. by Gerhard Harig (Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1960), pp. 161–191Google Scholar
  24. 35a.
    Norma E. Emerton, The Scientific Reinterpretation of Form ,Cornell History of Science Series (Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press, 1984), esp. pp. 76–105.Google Scholar
  25. 36.
    R. Hooykaas, “The Discrimination between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ Substances and the Development of Corpuscular Theory,” Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 1 (1948), 640–651Google Scholar
  26. 37.
    Daniel Sennertus, De consensu et dissensu Galenicorum et Peripateticorum cum Chymicis [1619], in Opera omnia (cit. n. 6), p. 230Google Scholar
  27. 21.
    Seicento, II: David van Goorle e Daniel Sennert,Giornale critico dell a Filosofia Italiana 45 (1966), 44–63, here on pp. 53–55.Google Scholar
  28. 38.
    Angelus Sala, Anatomia vitrioli [1609], 3rd. ed. (Leyden 1617), pp. 96–97.Google Scholar
  29. 46.
    William Arthur Drumin, The Corpuscular Philosophy of Robert Boyle: Its Establishment and Verification , Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, 1973, esp. pp. 79–83Google Scholar
  30. 46a.
    Robert Boyle, “A Physico-Chymical Essay,” in: Certain Physiological Essays [1661], in: The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle ,ed. by Thomas Birch, vol. I (London 1772), pp. 359–376, here on p. 375.Google Scholar
  31. 47.
    Thomas S. Kuhn, “Robert Boyle and Structural Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century,” Isis 43 (1952), 12–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 48.
    Peter Alexander, Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles: Locke and Boyle on the External World (Cambridge/London/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  33. 51.
    Robert Boyle, About the Excellency and Grounds of the Mechanical Hypothesis [1674, written ca. 1665], in: The Works (cit. n. 46), IV, pp. 67–78, here on p. 77.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph Meinel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Mathematik und TechnikUniversität HamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations