Boiling Blood: Chemistry of Vital Fluids 
in Dutch Enlightenment Culture

Verwaal, R., 13-Oct-2015.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic

What is blood? Despite William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of blood, many questions about blood itself unanswered. This paper asks how and why Dutch medical men in the eighteenth century initiated studies to understand the properties of blood. Some professor such as Herman Boerhaave and Jerome Gaub analyzed blood in the chemical laboratory and they believed their insights promoted new understandings of physiology and pathology. Others like Thomas Schwencke grew deeply skeptical about chemistry because they were convinced that there existed a discrepancy between blood in vitro and blood in vivo. Schwencke preferred quantitative measurements, hoping that these would provide useful knowledge for making diagnoses and treating wounds. This paper analyses these competing approaches in blood research. It argues that the discussion went beyond the problem of methodology and was directly linked to the question of blood’s essential yet disputed quality: was blood alive? A focus on the fluid and flow of blood can therefore provide a new perspective on perceptions of the living body and developments in academic culture in the eighteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13-Oct-2015
EventPhD Symposium Huizinga Institute - Hilversum, Netherlands
Duration: 13-Oct-201514-Oct-2015


ConferencePhD Symposium Huizinga Institute


PhD Symposium Huizinga Institute


Hilversum, Netherlands

Event: Conference


  • blood

ID: 30954644