Conference: Isaac Beeckman in Context: Science, the Arts, and Culture in the Early Dutch Republic (Middelburg, 27-28 September 2018)

30 augustus 2018

On September 27 and 28, 2018, an international conference is to commemorate the events of 1618, a crucial year in what is now known as the Scientific Revolution. In September of that year the Dutch artisan, theologian, schoolmaster and natural philosopher Isaac Beeckman (1588-1637) was promoted to doctor of medicine in the French city of Caen. To his dissertation Beeckman added a number of Corrolaria in which he laid down the principles of a new and revolutionary way to account for natural phenomena, the mechanical philosophy. Then, in November 1618, Beeckman met the young military officer René Descartes in the city of Breda. In a series of highly stimulating conversations he put Descartes on the track towards his own philosophy of nature. The rest is history.

This international conference, to be held at the premises of the University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, the Netherlands, commemorates these pivotal moments. Beeckman was a native of Middelburg and it was in this bustling commercial city that he was groping with his revolutionary insights in the years before 1618. Here he was deeply embedded in a cosmopolitan culture, a world in which sophisticated artisanal skills, riches from the overseas trading routes, humanistic culture and the study of nature were merging into a new culture of knowledge.

Our conference aims to put Beeckman in the context of this new culture of knowledge and more specifically 1) to investigate how this world interacted with Beeckman’s mechanical philosophizing in form and content, 2) to study Beeckman’s role in the shaping of the new philosophy of nature, 3) to evaluate how Beeckman’s role in the development of the mechanical philosophy was viewed, both by contemporaries like Descartes and by modern scholars, especially in France.

Keynote speakers

  • Floris H. Cohen (Utrecht University)
  • Sophie Roux (École Normale Supérieure, Paris)
  • John Schuster (University of Sydney)
  • Huib Zuidervaart (Huygens/ING, Amsterdam)


Click here to download the conference programme.


Admission to the conference and the public lecture is free, but registration is required. To do so, please send an e-mail to Arjan van Dixhoorn.


The conference is organized by the Isaac Beeckman Foundation, in cooperation with University College Rooseveldt Middelburg. It is held under the auspices of the Royal Zeeland Society of Sciences and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities.