The Nature of Blood: Debating Haematology and Blood Chemistry in the Eighteenth-Century Dutch Republic

Verwaal, R. E., 2017, In : Early Science and Medicine. 22, 4, p. 271–300 30 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Copy link to clipboard


  • The Nature of Blood

    Final publisher's version, 1 MB, PDF document


What is blood? Despite William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of blood, many questions about blood itself remained unanswered. This article asks how and why Dutch medical men in the early eighteenth century initiated studies to understand the properties of blood. Medical professors analysed blood in chemical laboratories, as they believed that blood chemistry promoted new understandings of human physiology and pathology. Others, however, grew to be deeply sceptical about chemistry and argued that there existed a discrepancy between blood in vitro and blood in vivo. They preferred quantitative measurements, hoping that these would provide useful knowledge for making diagnoses and treating wounds. This article analyses these competing approaches to blood research, arguing 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?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271–300
Number of pages30
JournalEarly Science and Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • blood, chemistry, haematology, medicine, Hieronymus Gaubius, Thomas Schwencke, Herman Boerhaave, Pierre Bordeu, Julien Offray de La Mettrie

ID: 49940408