The Corpuscular Theory of Daniel Sennert and Its Sources

in Atoms and Alchemy

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780226576961
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226577036 | DOI:
The Corpuscular Theory of Daniel Sennert and Its Sources

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This chapter focuses on the corpuscular theory of Daniel Sennert and its sources. The chapter focuses mainly on Sennert's early publications, leading up to and including his first atomist manifesto in the De chymicorum of 1619. Sennert is a primary representative of the fusion between Aristotelianism and alchemy already discussed. This amalgamation was mediated by Libavius, although Sennert would work great changes on the perplexing matter theory of the irascible schoolmaster. The corpuscular theory obtained by fusing alchemy and the type of Aristotelianism found in the Meteorology was genuinely experimental. In effect, Sennert considered his principles to be the limits attained by the analytical methods of the laboratory, a concept that modern scholars have found in the work of Robert Boyle. Sennert's use of dissolution and precipitation left little alternative to the conclusion that silver alloyed with gold and then dissolved in nitric acid retained its substance intact. The problems of elementary recombination, the human inability to create in the manner of God, and the reditus rule all led to the same conclusion—that “reversible reactions” involved corpuscular interactions rather than Aristotle's perfect mixture.

Keywords: corpuscular theory; Daniel Sennert; alchemy; Aristotelianism; matter theory; Meteorology; Robert Boyle

Chapter.  19671 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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