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The Oldenburg Correspondence: International Contacts of the Early Years of the Royal Society

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This paper is about the first scientific networking in history, that is Henry Oldenburg’s correspondence with European scholars published in 13 volumes by Rupert and Marie Boas Hall in the US (from 1965-) The Bremen-born Oldenburg became Boyle’s protegé and the first Secretary (with John Wilkins) of the Royal Society from 1662 until his death in 1677. He maintained an extensive correspondence with foreign scientists, mostly astronomers and mathematicians. While this provided the Royal Society with much information, it led to Oldenburg’s brief imprisonment in the Tower in 1667 because of his Dutch contacts. Resuming these contacts he operated under the pseudonym “Grubendol”.

I have special interest in Oldenburg’s contacts with Central and East European scholars during the late 1660-ies. These contacts were fuelled by Boyle’s interest in mineralogy (especially “transmutation”) and in the Hungarian/Transylvanian mines. Boyle’s query is followed by the Henshaw/Hill wish-list published in the Philosophical Transactions and after the failure of “Mr.Marcus” to send information and specimen to Oldenburg, to Dr Edward Browne’s survey – it was eventually Browne who with his reports and 1673 book satisfied Boyle’s and the Royal Society’s curiosity.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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