Project (2012)

Bringing Chymistry into Shape: The Ideas, Intellectual Context, and Influence of Daniel Sennert (1572-1637)

In this dissertation project "Bringing Chymistry into Shape: The Ideas, Intellectual Context, and Influence of Daniel Sennert (1572–1637)," Joel Klein explored the history of chymistry* and medicine in the early modern German university. The focus of my research, the professor and physician, Daniel Sennert, was one of the first to introduce chymistry into the German academy, and his ideas about medicine, chymistry, and atomism had a large influence within Germany and with later intellectuals such as Robert Boyle (1627–1691). Sennert has been called an “archetypical transitional figure,” and his ideas and works were some of the driving forces behind the ascendancy of chymistry within the university and in the Scientific Revolution at large, but as of yet there is no major work on his life, his thought, or his institutional context.

By investigating Sennert as a nucleus figure around which early seventeenth-century chymistry developed, this project examined the relationships between chymistry, medicine, experimentation, empiricism, and the waning of Aristotelianism in the German university. Through an analysis of multiple neglected chymical and medical texts, including rare student dissertations and disputations, as well as manuscript material, this study explored the trajectory of chymical ideas and practices in the seventeenth-century university.

* using the archaic spelling of “chymistry” and “chymical” as opposed to the modern “chemistry.” This keeps intact the spelling that was often used in the early modern period and preserves the notion that chemistry and transmutational alchemy had not yet separated. See Newman, William R., & Principe, Lawrence M., “Alchemy vs. Chymistry: the Etymological Origins of a Historiographic Mistake,” Early Science and Medicine, vol. 3, No. 1 (1998), pp. 32–65.