Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738), professor of Botany, Chemistry and Medicine at Leiden University, was considered ‘the teacher of all of Europe’ in his time. In the eighteenth century, metals and (gem)stones were still commonly used in medicine, but new chemical research by Boerhaave and others seems to have changed this. My current research explores how Boerhaave’s chemical research changed first his own ideas on the vital properties and thus the medical usefulness of metals and (gem)stones, and subsequently those of his contemporaries and students. Of particular interest here is the influence of vitalism, or the hypothesis that matter within or outside a vegetable or animal body can have active, living properties, which may influence the vital powers and thus the functioning of bodies.
Dr Hendriksen is a post-doctoral researcher in ICOG (Faculty of Arts).