Alchemy and University – Alchemie und Universität

Alchemy and University – Alchemie und Universität

Ute Frietsch (Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel / Humboldt Universität Berlin), in cooperation with Volkhard Wels (Freie Universität Berlin)
Bibelsaal in der Bibliotheca Augusta
Vom - Bis
20.11.2019 - 22.11.2019
Bauer, Volker

For the historical examination and appraisal of alchemy, its relation to university has played a crucial role. General and persistent perception has seen alchemy as an occult practice divorced from European universities: In the Age of Enlightenment, this practice would definitely have been rejected by the emerging modern sciences and thus also ex- cluded from the continued acceptance of the corpus of science, especially from modern chemistry.

The last decades, however, have seen groundbreaking and detailed research on social networks, terminology, procedures, instruments, pictures of alchemy as well as early chemistry by historians who have modified this simplistic view and described the rather gradual transformation of alchemy between the 16th and 18th centuries. Experts in this field today acknowledge that medical alchemy was in some way established in European universities in the 17th century, despite deep-seated conflicts and disputes between the concept of humours and the concept of tria principia and between plant-based and mineral-based medication. Until now, though, the relationship between alchemy and universities remains to be researched in more detail, and the analysis of their relationship in the 16th and 18th centuries remains a desideratum.

This conference aims to deepen and to extend our knowledge of alchemy and universities in early modern times, especially our understanding of the protagonists (as for example: Wecker, Zwinger, Tancke, Libavius, Hartmann, Sennert, Rolfinck, Wedel, Stahl), the theories (e.g. tria principia, humoral pathology, corpuscular theory, phlogiston theory), preferred substances (e.g. sulfur, mercury, salt, antimony, laudanum), practices (e.g. academic disputationes, laboratory research, practical training of students), driving forces and con- troversies. With regards to the historical development, the major point of focus will certainly lie on the academic discipline of medicine. Nonetheless, an analysis of alchemy’s impact on other academic scientiae and artes (as for example theology, natural philosophy, astronomy, history) is equally important: How, for example, was an alchemically influenced theosophy discussed and practiced at early modern universities? And how broadly and freely could university professors, interested in alchemy, interpret the academic denomination of their chairs?

The project is funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) as part of the project “Epistemischer Wandel: Stadien der frühneuzeitlichen Alchemie (Epistemic Change: Stages of Early Modern Alchemy)".


Wednesday, November 20, Augusteerhalle

Öffentlicher Abendvortrag / Keynote Lecture

18.00 Peter Burschel: Begrüßung / Welcome; Ute Frietsch: Eröffnung / Opening remarks
18.15 Bruce T. Moran (University of Nevada/USA): The Experience of Things in the Making and the Abstractions of the Made Thing: Networks, Recipes, and the Contradictions of Alchemy between the Kassel Court and the Marburg Classroom

19.15 Wine Reception

20.00 Abendessen / Dinner: Ristorante La Domenica (auf Wunsch/optional)

Thursday, November 21, Bibelsaal

Einführung / Introduction

09.15 Ute Frietsch: A Desideratum of Research: The Relationship between Alchemy and University
10.00 Volkhard Wels: Formatting chemical knowledge. Some introductory remarks

10.45 Kaffeepause / Coffee Break

Moderation / Chair: Volkhard Wels
11.15 Didier Kahn (CNRS, Paris): The first public/private courses of chemistry in Paris up to William Davisson
12.00 Thomas Hofmeier (Historisches Museum Basel): Alchemie an der Universität Basel im 16. Jahrhundert

12.45 Mittagspause / Lunch Break: Ristorante La Domenica (auf Wunsch/optional)

Moderation / Chair: John Christie (Oxford University)
14.00 Elisabeth Moreau (Princeton University): Physiology and the University of Marburg
14.45 Hiro Hirai (Columbia University): Daniel Sennert and theological debates at Wittenberg University
15.30 Kaspar von Greyerz (Universität Basel): Seventeenth-century English translations of Daniel Sennert’s works

16.15 Kaffeepause / Coffee Break

16.30 Georgiana Hedesan (Oxford University): The Alchemical Philosophy of Jan Baptist Van Helmont in the Context of University Teaching in Leuven/Louvain
17.15 Anette Marquardt & Bettina Wahrig (Universität Braunschweig): The Schneider Collection

19.00 Abendessen / Dinner: Vinum Italicum (auf Wunsch/optional)

Friday, November 22, Bibelsaal

Moderation / Chair: Bettina Wahrig
09.15 Lawrence M. Principe (Johns Hopkins University): The Changing Visions of Chymistry at Seventeenth-Century Jena: Brendel, Rolfinck, Wedel, and Others
10.00 Marieke Hendriksen (Utrecht University): Alchemy in the kitchen: Blankaart’s ‘Borgerlyke Tafel’ (1683)

10.45 Kaffeepause / Coffee Break

Moderation / Chair: Ute Frietsch

11.15 Kevin Chang (Taipei University): From University to Court: The Shift of Stahl’s Positions on Alchemy
12.00 Christopher Halm (Universität Regensburg): Wallerius and the conception of agricultural chemistry at Uppsala University

12.45 Abschlussdiskussion / Final remarks


Dr. Volker Bauer

Herzog August Bibliothek Lessingplatz 1 D-38304 Wolfenbüttel

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