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Manipulating Spiritual Matter. How Did Early Modern Science Become Experimental? By dr. Doina-Cristina Rusu (RUG).

Tu26-03-201915:30 - 17:00
Th11-04-201915:30 - 17:00

The event will be in English.
Walk-in from 15.30hrs (which gives time to check out the Beyond the Lab expo); Session starts at 16.00hrs and ends at approx. 17.00hrs.
Entry free after registration.

The emergence of experimental science in the early modern period did not take place in the universities or research institutes, but in individual ateliers and mere households – Do It Yourself Science!

Doina-Cristina Rusu is a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Philosophy, where she runs a NWO-Veni project on the emergence of experimental science.

She will re-enact some ancient experiments where phenomena at hand were explained by the activity of spiritual matter. This will offer us an insight into the roots of the scientific culture. Moreover, the recreation of early modern experiments will bring knowledge about the relation between theory (in this case the spiritual matter) and experimentation in a period usually called the Scientific Revolution. The experiments will be shown on video (and for the non-dangerous experiments: live) and discussed with the audience.

Universities were focusing on theology, medicine and law, and natural philosophy was taught only in order to expose some theoretical principles. Moreover, institutes and academies were born only in the second half of the seventeenth century. Before that, artisans, practitioners and court philosophers dealt with explaining natural phenomena, producing objects and investigating nature in general. One particular class of phenomena dealt with action at a distance, such as magnetism or gravitation. Some philosophers explained these phenomena, and several others, in terms of invisible pneumatic matter (called spirits) traveling in between bodies. Distillations played a central role in advancing the theory of spirits: spirits were produced in the distillation apparatus, and then they were brought back to a liquid, but much stronger and with different qualities than the initial substance. In this way, spirits became crucial in the birth of modern experimental science and the switch to a corpuscularian matter theory.

The exhibition Beyond the Lab explores seven remarkable stories of ‘do-it-yourself scientists’ who are busy hacking, experimenting and inventing, taking it out of professional labs. Equipped with low-cost sensors, smartphone apps and the ability to share information with communities online, these DIY science pioneers are challenging our ideas of who a scientist is and what science will look like in the future. From people who build their own medical devices to manage their diabetes, to community groups measuring pollution.