What is blood? Despite William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of blood, many questions about blood itself remained unanswered. This article asks how and why Dutch medical men in the early eighteenth century initiated studies to understand the properties of blood. Medical professors analysed blood in chemical laboratories, as they believed that blood chemistry promoted new understandings of human physiology and pathology. Others, however, grew to be deeply sceptical about chemistry and argued that there existed a discrepancy between blood in vitro and blood in vivo. They preferred quantitative measurements, hoping that these would provide useful knowledge for making diagnoses and treating wounds. This article analyses these competing approaches to blood research, arguing that the discussion went beyond the problem of methodology and was directly linked to the question of blood’s essential yet disputed quality: was blood alive?
BoerhaaveA New Method1: 167. Emphasis original. Barbara Orland “The Fluid Mechanics of Nutrition: Herman Boerhaave’s Synthesis of Seventeenth-Century Circulation Physiology” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (2012) 357-369.
SchwenckeHaematologiaxi-xii. “Sanguinem Chemice tractatum [...] breviter exposui reddidique rationem cur per analysin notam indolem sanguinis naturalem nunquam comprehendet Medicus.” Idem Verhandeling van het bloed xxi-xxii.
Hasok Chang“Compositionism as a Dominant Way of Knowing in Modern Chemistry,”History of Science49 (2011) 247-268; Chang Is Water H2O? 37-42. Chang prefers to use the term ‘principlist’ over ‘principalist’ on the grounds that it refers to principles not principals.
Thomas Schwencke“Aanmerkingen over verscheide manieren van bloedstelpen, en de voornaamste bloedstelpende middelen in de heelkunde,”Verhandelingen van de Hollandse Maatschappy der Weetenschappen2 (1755) 225-250.
von HallerAcademical Lectures2: 167-168. In the original Latin von Haller made a distinction between particles brought about by natural body heat and those made by the intensity of fire see Praelectiones 2: 312. “Id nobis sufficit demonstrari per id experimentum inesse sanguini particulas alias aliis mobiliores quarum aliquae solo calore hominis sani eleventur aliae igni leniori aliae demum ultima vehementia ignis mobiles atque volatiles reddi possint.”