In the late medieval and early modern period, most learned men were fascinated with natural philosophy, the inquiry into the workings of nature. Vienna was among the key places in Central Europe where inquisitive minds met to practice a nature- or medicine-related profession. With its central position in continental Europe, its natural resources (including a long-standing mining tradition) and university, Vienna was also a prime location for alchemical and medical discovery, and many Austrian noblemen investigated the possibility of reviving a faltering economy with the help of alchemists. Medical doctors in and beyond the University of Vienna showed an interest in the use of alchemically produced remedies at various points in history, which eventually resulted in the development of pharmacy as we know it today. Alchemy was a craft and theoretical system that was as ubiquitous as it was debated. However, the history of medico-alchemical Vienna (and hence, Central Europe) written to date is far from complete, and shows one crucial oversight: the Viennese collections of alchemical manuscripts dating from the 14th to the 17th century have not been studied in detail by historians of science at all. This project is going to amend this situation by writing the history of alchemical inquiry and its intersections with medicine in Austria on the basis of Viennese manuscript materials. The project will be undertaken by Anke Timmermann, a young alchemical historian currently active in Philadelphia, USA. She will be working in the environment of the Medical University of Vienna, within the program section entitled “The collections of the Medical University of Vienna”, and utilize its collections of early printed books as reference points for the investigation of the alchemical manuscripts. Altogether, this project will inform our understanding of the relevance of Vienna and Austria to the natural philosophical world of the late medieval and early modern period.
Field of science
- /humanities/history and archaeology/history
Call for proposal
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