Staff F.J. Dijksterhuis (Fokko Jan) Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis
Associate Professor

Ravelijn room RA 4313
PO Box 217, NL – 7500 AE Enschede  


Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis is Associate Professor of History of Science at the Centre for Studies of Science and Technology of the University of Twente.

Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis (1965) studied applied mathematics and science studies and has worked as a teacher of mathematics and social science at secondary level. In 1999 he finished a dissertation on the history of optics in the seventeenth century, focusing on the work of Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695): Lenses and Waves. Christiaan Huygens and the Mathematical Science of Optics in the Seventeenth Century (Kluwer 2004).

In 2006 he received an NWO VIDI grant for a five year research project The Uses of Mathematics in the Dutch Republic. The project ran from 2007 to 2012 and included two PhDs. In 2013 he was Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study of Durham University.

In the Global Knowledge Society project, he leads working group iv, Borders and the Transfer of Knowledge. 

Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis is Louise Thijssen-Schoute Professor of Early Modern Knowledge History in the Department of Art & Culture, History, Antiquity of the Free University, Amsterdam.


Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis studies the cultural history of early modern knowledge practices. Tracing spatial and cultural interactions and reconfigurations between various socio-cultural groups gives insight into the emergence of categories of science, technology and society. 

His early research focused on the history of early modern optics, investigating the intersections between mathematics, physics and instruments in the seventeenth century. He made a detailed reconstruction of the origin of Huygens’ principle of wave propagation. He has an ongoing specific interest in matters of light, exploring new perspectives on early modern optics from the arts, instruments, philosophy, and economy.

His current research interests range from the substantiality of Enlightened conceptions of light, to the trail of atmospheric contraptions from Drebbel to Papin, and the urban chorography as breeding ground for knowledge as cultural asset. In his inaugural lecture Worlds of Ingenuity he outlined the historiographical context of such projects, highlighting the artifactual and experiential character of early modern knowledge practices.

In 2010 Katrien Vanagt defended her thesis on Plempius’ Ophthalmographia and early modern medical ideas about seeing (De emancipatie van het oog: V.F. Plempius’ Ophthalmographia en vroegmoderne medische denkbeelden over het zien.).

The project The Uses of Mathematics in the Dutch Republic aimed at developing a cultural historical perspective on mathematization in early modern science and technology and the ways mathematical thinking have become dominant in western society.

Arjen Dijkstra defended his thesis in 2012, Between academics and idiots. A cultural history of early modern mathematics in the Dutch Province of Friesland. The thesis of Tim Nicolaije, Mathematics Teachers in late 17th-century Amsterdam, is forthcoming.

Besides his research on the early modern history of science and technology, he has written a history of NRLO, the Dutch Council for Agricultural Research. He has been involved in the training of teachers at secondary level for Science for Public Understanding and is co-author of a secondary level mathematics textbook.


Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis teaches a range of courses in various bachelors and masters programs at the UT, introducing budding engineers to themes of history, philosophy and STS. 
He participated in the development and implementation of the UT Honours Program.
He is member of the core-team of University College Twente ATLAS, a liberal arts and science program for new engineers. Besides developing the educational program, he coordinates one semester, and teaches various courses. 


Selection of major academic publications. See also academia.

Lenses and Waves. Christiaan Huygens and the mathematical science of optics in the seventeenth century (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2004). Electronic version (access required).   

Articles and Book
‘Science at the Theatre of Towns,’ in: Huib Zuidervaart et al. (eds.), Locations of Knowledge (forthcoming 2018)

‘Magi from the North: Instruments of Fire and Light in the Early Seventeenth Century’, in: Arianna Borrelli, Giora Hon, Yaakov Zik (eds.), The Optics of Giambattista Della Porta (ca. 1535–1615): A Reassessment (Springer, 2017)

‘Duytsche Mathematique and the Building of a New Society: Pursuits of Mathematics in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic’, in: Lesley B. Cormack, Steven A. Walton, John A. Schuster (eds.), Mathematical Practitioners and the Transformation of Natural Knowledge in Early Modern Europe (Springer, 2017)

‘Understandings of Colors: Varieties of Theories in the Color Worlds of the Early Seventeenth Century’, in: Tawrin Baker, Sven Dupré, Sachiko Kusukawa and Karin Leonhard (eds.), Early Modern Color Worlds (Leiden: Brill, 2016)

‘Perceptions of Colors by Different Eyes’, in: Magdalena Bushart and Friedrich Steinle (eds.), Colour Histories. Science, Art, and Technology in the 17th and 18th Centuries (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015)

 ‘Foci of Interests. Optical Pursuits amongst Huygens, Leibniz, and Tschirnhaus 1680–1710),’ in: Michael Kempe (Ed.), Der Philosoph im U-Boot. Angewandte Wissenschaft und Technik im Kontext von G. W. Leibniz (Reihe Forschungen, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek) (Hannover, 2014) 261-283.

‘Geometries of Space. Seventeenth-century Dutch Mathematics and the Visualization of Distance.’ in: Gehring, Ulrike, and Peter Weibel, Mapping spaces: networks of knowledge in 17th century landscape painting (München: Hirmer, 2014): 346-353.

‘Reworking Descartes’ Mathesis Universalis’, Metascience 23 (2014) 613-618.

(with Friis, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen, Robert Scharff, Don Welton, and Robert Crease) ‘Book Symposium on Robert P. Crease’s World in the Balance: the Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement’, Philosophy & Technology 26 (2013) 227-246.

‘Jeu de Paume & Jeux de la Raison in Seventeenth-Century Optics’, Nuncius 28 (2013) 116-142.

‘A View From The Mountaintop The Development Of Isaac Vossius’ Optics, 1658-1666.’ in: Eric Jorink and Dirk van Miert (eds.), Isaac Vossius (1618-1689). Between Science and Scholarship (Leiden: Brill, 2012): 157-187.

‘The Mutual Making of Sciences and Humanities. Willebrord Snellius, Jacob Golius, and the Early Modern Entanglement of Mathematics and Philology.’ in: Rens Bod (ed.), The Making of the Humanities II. From Early Modern to Modern Disciplines (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012): 73-92.

‘Low Country Opticks The optical pursuits of Lambert ten Kate and Daniel Fahrenheit in early Dutch ‘Newtonianism’.’ in Eric Jorink, Ad Maas (eds.), Newton in the Netherlands (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2012): 159-183.

‘Licht in Hollandse Optiek’, Groniek. Historisch Tijdschrift 192 (2012) 121–139.

‘Conjunctions in Paris. Interactions between Rømer and Huygens.’ Centaurus 54-1 (2012) 58-76. (online)

‘‘Will the eye be the sole judge?’ ‘Science’ and ‘art’ in the optical inquiries of Lambert ten Kate and Hendrik van Limborch around 1710’, pp. 308-331 in: Eric Jorink, Bart Ramakers, Art and Science in the Early Modern Netherlands. Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art 61 (2011).

‘Moving Around the Ellipse. Conic Sections in Leiden, 1620-1660.’ pp. 89-124 in: Sven Dupré, Christoph Lüthy (eds.), Silent Messengers: The Circulation of Material Objects of Knowledge in the Early Modern Low Countries (Berlin: Lit, 2011).

‘Labour on lenses . Isaac Beeckman’s notes on lens making.’ pp. 257-270 in: Albert van Helden, Sven Dupré, Rob van Gent, Huib Zuidervaart (eds.) The Origins of the Telescope (Amsterdam: KNAW Press, 2010).

with Arjen Dijkstra, Tim Nicolaije. ‘Werktuigen van wiskunde. Instrumenten in boeken in de zeventiende-eeuwse wiskunde.’ De Zeventiende Eeuw 2 (2010): 130-150.

‘Stevin, Huygens, and the Dutch Republic’, Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde 9 (2010), 100-107. [Special Issue for 5th ECM, Amsterdam 2008]

‘Fit to Measure. ‘Bequamheit’ in Mathematics in the Dutch Republic’, in: J. Hartman en J. Nieuwstraten (eds.), Public Offices, Personal Demands. Capability in Governance in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic (Newcastle, 2009).

with Landsman, Klaas, Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis, ‘Christiaan Huygens’ Traité de la Lumière’, in: J.J.M. Bos en E. Geleijns (red.), Boekenwijsheid: drie eeuwen kennis en cultuur in 30 bijzondere boeken (Zutphen, 2009). [which makes my Erdös number 5]

‘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. (online)

‘Constructive Thinking. A Case for Dioptrics’ in: L. Roberts et al. (ed.) The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation (Amsterdam, 2007).

‘Huygens und das Licht des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts’,  Lichtgefüge des 17. Jahrhunderts. Rembrandt und Vermeer - Spinoza und Leibniz (Paderborn, 2007).

with Barend van der Meulen, Tussen coordineren en innoveren. De Nationale Raad voor Landbouwkundig Onderzoek, 1957-2000 (Groningen: Nederlands Agronomisch Historisch Instituut, 2007) (Historia Agriculturae 39).

‘Once Snell Breaks Down: From Geometrical to Physical Optics in the Seventeenth Century’, Annals of Science, 61 (2004), 165-185. (online)

International Activities

Research Visits

  • 1995   University of Minnesota September-December, Professor Alan Shapiro.
  • 2004   University of Calgary April- July, Professor Margaret Osler.
  • 2010   Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte Berlin, Professor Jürgen Renn.
  • 2011-2012 Beirat (advisor), project Mapping Spaces, ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) Karlsruhe / Prof. Ulrike Gehring, Universität Trier.
  • 2013   Fellow, Institute of Advance Study, Durham University.

Invited Lectures

  • Della Porta Readings in the North. Workshop The Optics of Giovan Battista Della Porta (1535–1615): A Reassessment. Technische Universität Berlin, 24-25 October 2014
  • Colors on the Fringes. A Spectrum of Theories in Early 17th-Century Optics. Early Modern Colour Practices 1450-1650. Max Planck Research Group “Art and Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe”. 21-22 March 2014.
  • Jeu de Paume in Dutch Culture: Descartes, Van Schooten and the Huygenses; Images, Moves and Models. Watson Seminar on the Material and Visual History of Science 2012 – Tennis and the Scientific Revolution, Museo Galilei Florence, June 2012.
  • Thoughtful Construction. Artifactual Nature at the Académie Royale des Sciences. Workshop: Skilful Naturalist, University of Leeds, July 2011
  • The Caustics of Tschirnhaus. Amassing Light, Learning and Love. Tagung Lichtgefüge, Berlin, March-April 2011.
  • Simon Stevin and Mathematical Culture around 1600, Workshop: Transformation der Antike, Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte Berlin, December 2010.
  • Low Country Opticks, Conference: Newton and the Netherlands, Boerhaave Museum Leiden, April 2010.
  • Beeckman’s work on lenses. Symposium: The Invention Of The Dutch Telescope. Middelburg, September 2008.
  • Clair et distinct. Seventeenth-century conceptualizations of the quality of images. Workshop: Inside the Camera Obscura, Max Planck Institut Berlin, July 2006.
  • New Lights, Conference:  Inventive intersections: Sites, Artifacts and the Rise of Modern Science and Technology, KNAW (Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences) Amsterdam, September 2004.
  • Reading up on A Compleat System of Opticks, The Legacy of Newton’s Opticks, Dibner Institute Cambridge MA, November 2004.

 Other activities

  • 2016, with Karel Davids (VU), Ida Stamhuis (VU), Rienk Vermij (OU): Stevin Inside Out: New Perspectives on Simon Stevin (Amsterdam, 16-17 December 2016)
  • 2015-present: leader Working Group IV, Borders and the Transfer of Knowledge, Global Knowledge Society Project.
  • 2015-present: chairman Werkgroep 18de Eeuw (Dutch-Belgian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies)
  • 2013: co-organizer, ICHSTM symposium “A work to be done”: the manual and the cognitive in early-modern science, Manchester, July 2013
  • 2012-present: staff member and developer University College Twente ATLAS.
  • 2012: Contributor in book project Reuzen van de Lage Landen, Marcel Hulspas and Bart Grob, for the commemoration of the farewell of KNAW president Robbert Dijkgraaf, 2012. (pictures)
  • 2010, with Charles van den Heuvel (KNAW) and Steven Wepster (UU), Lorentz/NIAS interdisciplinary workshop ‘Mathematical Life in the Dutch Republic’, 6-10 december 2010.
  • 2009, with Geert Somsen and Christoph Lüthy: Third Woudschoten Conference of the ‘Landelijke Werkgroep Wetenschapsgeschiedenis’, Dutch Science – World Science.
  • 2008-present: editorial board Deventer Jaarboek.
  • 2007-2010: coördinator master PSTS (UT).
  • 2005-present: development and implementation ‘Honours Program’, Twente University
  • 2004-2007: research project on the history of post-WW2 ‘sectorraden’ in Dutch science, technology and economy.
  • 2001-2006: development master program PSTS (Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society), Twente University
  • 1999-2005: board Gewina