Journal article Open Access

Criticizing Chrysopoeia? Alchemy, Chemistry, Academics, and Satire in the Northern Netherlands, 1650–1750

Hendriksen, Marieke M.A.

This essay argues that we should consider perceptions of and associations with alchemical language and practices in academic and artisanal as well as popular culture in the Netherlands in order to gain a better understanding of the supposed transformation of alchemy into chemistry in this region. A fresh view on the sites of Dutch chemistry around 1700 is provided, demonstrating that the unique sociopolitical and geological characteristics of the Low Countries meant that the process of the “disappearance” of alchemy was distinctly different from that in the neighboring German lands. Finally, the essay shows that, as Lawrence M. Principe has previously suggested, the rhetoric with which Herman Boerhaave and other Dutch academics rejected the “excesses of chemistry” was less empirically than morally and socially motivated.

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