Ruben uroscopy
Photo: Corné Sparidaens, 2016.


I'm a historian and curator, specialising in the history of bodily fluids and the material culture of early modern science and medicine. I recently defended my dissertation Fluid Bodies: Physiology and Chemistry in the Eighteenth-Century Boerhaave School (2018) at the University of Groningen. I currently work as curator of medical collections at the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam. As of December 2019, I am NWO Rubicon research fellow at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University.


In my research I focus specifically on:

  1. History of Science and Medicine
    In my PhD project I examined the role of bodily fluids and chemistry in eighteenth-century medicine and Dutch Enlightenment culture. My dissertation argues that at the turn of the eighteenth century, the introduction of new chemical research methods and instruments crucially changed the perception of bodily fluids, which contributed to a new understanding of the human body and a new system of medicine.

  2. Material and Visual Culture
    Whereas most scholars analyse objects still extant today, I also study those materials – such as blood and earwax – that have not been stored and saved. Though this poses challenges to the historian, I develop innovative methods to reconstruct past collections and think about the materiality of materials in the early modern period. These include making eighteenth-century instruments, like Herman Boerhaave’s little furnace, with which I perform early modern experiments on raw materials.

Curriculum Vitae


  • PhD, University of Groningen (Early Modern History), 2018
  • MA, Utrecht University (History of Science), 2010
  • BA, University College Utrecht (Liberal Arts & Sciences), 2007


  • NWO Rubicon postdoctoral fellow, Durham University, 2019–current
  • Curator, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, 2018–current
  • Lecturer, University of Groningen, 2019
  • Curator, Museum for Communication, The Hague, 2017–2019
  • PhD Candidate, University of Groningen, 2013–2017
  • Editorial Assistant at Isis Journal, Utrecht University, 2014
  • Lecturer, Utrecht University, 2010–2013
  • Librarian, Dutch Railway Museum, Utrecht, 2011–2013
  • Collection & Information Specialist, University Museum Utrecht, 2010–2011


  • Visiting Research Fellowship, Groningen Institute for the Study of Culture, 2019
  • Herzog-Ernst Fellowship, Research Library Gotha, Erfurt University, 2017
  • Santorio Fellowship for Medical Humanities and Science, Pisa, 2017
  • Van de Sande Fellowship, Scaliger Institute, Leiden University, 2016
  • Visiting PhD Student, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge, 2015


Erasmus MC: r.verwaal [at] erasmusmc.nl