Boerhaave’s Furnace

Sep 7, 2020 | Blog, Publications

Hendriksen, Marieke M.A., and Ruben E. Verwaal. “Boerhaave’s Furnace: Exploring Early Modern Chemistry through Working Models.” Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 43 (2020): 385–411.


This article discusses the (re)construction and use of an Early modern instrument, better known as Herman Boerhaave’s (1668–1738) little furnace. We investigate the origins, history and materiality of this furnace, and examine the dynamic relationship between historical study and reconstructing and handling an object. We argue that combining textual analysis with performative methods allows us to gain a better understanding of both the role of lost material culture in historical chemical practice, pedagogy, and knowledge production, and provide a deeper understanding of the embodied experiences and knowledge of historical actors. Having made and used two versions of Boerhaave’s furnace, we provide insight in what present‐day working models can tell us about historical materials and practices approximately three centuries ago.


chemistry, pedagogy, Herman Boerhaave, (re)construction, working models, furnaces, experiment, foot stove

Open Access

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