University of Erfurt

Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt

Projekt von Dr. Andrea Strazzoni

Medicine, mechanism and experiments: how physicians shaped the method of natural philosophy during the scientific revolution

The aim of this project is to unveil the role of medicine in the emergence of experimental natural philosophy in the second half of seventeenth century. Notwithstanding the attempts to develop medical theories on a philosophical basis – following the project of Descartes –, and the uses of philosophical methods inspired by physicians, as in the case of Locke, early modern medical and philosophical problems are usually studied separately. My research will shed light on the contribution of medicine to philosophy by considering the criticisms to the ‘speculative’ and ‘hypothetical’ Cartesian account of the functioning of human body. By analysing the natural histories of Thomas Willis, Walter Charleton, Thomas Sydenham and Giorgio Baglivi, and the experimental and mathematical approach of Nicolaus Steno and Alfonso Borelli, I will show the contribution of physicians in discarding the Cartesian theories of heart, brain, respiration and muscular contraction, and in establishing methodologies adopted by Boyle, Hooke and Locke (as to natural history), and Wren, Wallis and Newton (as to experimental and mathematical physics).

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