Liquid methods: the interactions between practice and theory in understanding the motions of water, 1687-1738

Project Details


Throughout the early modern period, the motions of water were extensively treated by leading natural philosophers such as Stevin, Galileo, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, and Euler. Although their theoretical works on the topics of hydrostatics and hydrodynamics have received some attention in the literature, the methodological and practical implications of these works have scarcely been
touched upon. Because of this, many scholars have been led to believe that theoretical and mathematical discussions of the motions of water became increasingly removed from practical engineering issues. This perceived distance between theory and practice is surprising given that early modern natural philosophers themselves often related their work to pressing issues such as the flooding of lowlands and efficient ship building. This project seeks to capture the interactions between diverse approaches to water by studying them synchronically over a specific period, namely that between the theoretical interventions of Isaac Newton (1687) and Daniel Bernoulli (1738). It will do so by scrutinizing the various methodologies of the actors involved. By focusing on methods and practices, this research will steer clear of oversimplified dichotomies such as those between scholars and engineers; scientific and technological approaches; or mathematical and experimental methodologies. By reconsidering such distinctions, the project will bear on our understanding of eighteenth-century science more generally.
Short title or EU acronymOZR opvangmandaat
Effective start/end date1/10/1830/09/19


  • philosophy