389. The Acid Test: Theories of Matter

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Schegk, Taurellus, Gorlaeus, and Sennert revive atomism to explain chemical reactions, the composition of bodies, and the generation of organisms.



Further Reading

• H. Hirai, Le concept de semence dans les théories de la matière á la Renaissance: de Marsile Ficin à Pierre Gassendi (Turnhout: 2005).

• H. Hirai, “The Invisible Hand of God in Seeds: Jacob Schegk’s Theory of Plastic Faculty,” Early Science and Medicine 12 (2007), 377-404.

H. Hirai, Medical Humanism and Natural Philosophy: Renaissance Debates on Matter, Life and the Soul (Leiden: 2011).

S. Kusukawa, “Lutheran Uses of Aristotle: A Comparison between Jacob Schegk and Philip Melanchthon,” in C. Blackwell and S. Kusukawa (eds), Philosophy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Conversations with Aristotle (Aldershot: 1999), 169-88.

C. Lüthy, David Gorlaeus (1591-1612): an Enigmatic Figure in the History of Philosophy and Science (Amsterdam: 2012).

• C. Lüthy, J.E. Murdoch, and W.R. Newman (eds.), Late Medieval and Early Modern Corpuscular Matter Theories (Leiden: 2001).

E. Michael, “Daniel Sennert on Matter and Form: At the Juncture of the Old and the New,” Early Science and Medicine 2 (1997), 272-99.

• W.R. Newman, Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution (Chicago: 2006).


Stanford Encyclopedia: Nicolaus Taurellus


John Spalding on 4 February 2022

Acid test

You'll never get away with your joke about William of Orange/ fruit salad!

Mirz Beglerovi… on 9 February 2022


All physical quantities almost certainly come as a sum of quanta. For example, it is well established that amount of energy, and the amount of positive and negative electricity are all sum of quanta and the same probably goes for mass, because mass and energy are equivalent.

Furthermore, let's for example consider length. We take for granted that this physical quantity is finite, so it's paradoxical to say that something with a property of finitude can be divided an infinite number of times.

I remember the article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (forget the name of an article by now) where some topic concerning modern physics was discussed. At one point three physical constants together with their corresponding units were multiplied (that result must be constant also). The result was a very small length in meters. Nobody knows what to think about it, but some speculate that obtained result is a likely candidate for a quantum of length.

Denis O Dwyer on 31 March 2023

Theories of matter ... cake or fruit salad

At minute 03:27 of your talk you give a Latin expression attributed to the scholastics ...Could you kindly transcribe it and if at all possible give a book reference... Thanks in advance

In reply to by Denis O Dwyer

Peter Adamson on 31 March 2023

Latin expression

Sure! It's: in quae dissolvi possunt composita, ex iisdem coaluerunt: “the things into which composites can be dissolved are the things out of which they are made.” I got this from W.R. Newman, “The Significance of ‘Chymical Atomism’,” Early Science and Medicine 14 (2009), 248-64, at 255.

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