Past projects

VIDI – The Uses of Mathematics in the Dutch Republic

period: spring 2007 – spring 2012
Granting organization: NWO ( )


Project description

The Uses of Mathematics in the Dutch Republic aims at developing a cultural historical perspective on mathematization in early modern science and technology. It does so by thoroughly historicizing conceptions of early modern mathematics and the understanding of mathematization as the circulation of socially and culturally embedded mathematical practices in the heterogeneous field that consistuted early modern mathematics. The project employs a cultural perspective on the history of mathematics, analyzing mathematical practices in terms of intellectual and material contents and their social and cultural meanings in order to understand the transformations effectuated in the mathematization of inquiry and invention. The historical material to develop this perspective is drawn from the history of the Dutch Republic, where mathematics was a thriving enterprize with penetrating cultural significance. In addition to contributing to history of science and mathematics, the project intends to integrate these with general cultural history and thus contribute to historiography of the Dutch Republic.

The project is led by Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis, who will write a monograph on the cultural history of mathematics. In addition he does a sub-project aimed at knowledge circulation, focussing on material and intellectual practices in optics. Two PhD-students work on sub-projects on the structure and the dynamics respectively of the field of mathematics. Tim Nicolije investigates the mathematics market in Amsterdam, the Republic’s centre of commerce. He follows in particular the group of ‘rekenmeesters’ providing professional education for trade and navigation. Arjen Dijkstra studies the interplay between mathematical practices and culture in Friesland, the Republic’s second political and cultural core.

Selection of recent publications

Dijksterhuis, F.J. (2007), “Constructive Thinking. A Case for Dioptrics”, in: L.L.Roberts, S. Schaffer and P.R. Dear (eds.) The mindful hand: inquiry and invention from the late Renaissance to early industrialisation.Chicago:Edita, 59-81 (online: )

Dijksterhuis, F.J. (2008), “The Golden Age of Mathematics. Stevin, Huygens and the Dutch Republic”, Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde 9-2 (2008), 100-107.

Dijksterhuis, F.J. (2008), “Reading up on the Opticks. Refashioning Newton's Theories of Light and Colors in Eighteenth-Century Textbooks”, Perspectives on Science 16-4 (2008) 309-327.