Expert Meeting: Microscopic practice and visual culture in the 17th and 18th centuries (Amsterdam, 2 November 2016)

28 september 2016

Museum Boerhaave in Leiden and Artis Library of the University of Amsterdam organize a one-day expert meeting that addresses the practice of microscopy in the Netherlands. The period under investigation roughly covers the era between the pioneering discoveries in the second half of the seventeenth century, which established the microscope’s place in observation, and the professionalization of microscopic research associated with nineteenth century discipline formation.

The expert meeting intends to look further into this period, in which the growing popularization of science went hand in hand with instrumental commercialization. This being the era in which art and science still were complementary, the meeting will emphasize the close co-operation between scientists and artists in observing and representing nature.

The meeting, though informal, aims for an active participation of all attendees. It will be held in the inspiring atmosphere of the Artis Library. The morning talks discuss the relation between science and early modern Dutch society, making, trading, and using microscopes, and the drawing of specimens. In the afternoon there will be hands-on sessions featuring historic microscopes from the collection of Museum Boerhaave as well as drawings, watercolors and printed books kept in Artis Library, all of which will allow us to appreciate microscopic practice from a material perspective.

After the tea break we shall visit ARTIS Micropia, the only museum of micro-organisms in the world, in order to learn how and why the microscopic practice of the 17th and 18th centuries are presented to the larger modern day public.

The expert meeting, co-organized by Artis Library and Museum Boerhaave, in co- operation with ARTIS Micropia, is part of a NWO Humanities-funded research project on optical culture in the early modern Netherlands and is supported by the larger research program ‘Art and Science in the Early Modern Low Countries (ca 1560-1730)’ by HuygensING and the Rijksmuseum.


  • 9.00 – 9.30: Registration and coffee
  • 9.30 – 12.40: Steph Scholten (welcome and introduction)
    • Eric Jorink: Microscopy and early modern Dutch society
    • Huib Zuidervaart: Building of and trading in microscopes
    • Lesley Robertson: Using the Van Leeuwenhoek microscope
    • Irene Kopelman: Imaging nature
  • 14.00 – 15.30: Workshops
    • Creating knowledge (Tiemen Cocquyt)
    • Pierre Lyonet and Johannes Schepens (Hans Mulder)
  • 16.00 – 16.45: New ways of showing the invisible (Jasper Buikx)
  • 17.00 – 17.30: Wrap up in Artis Library
  • 17.30 – 19.00: End of the programme with drinks

Registration and information

This is an exclusive expert meeting. Please send us your confirmation before Tuesday, October 4th through this email address. The expert meeting will take place at the Artis Library, Plantage Middenlaan 45, Amsterdam (the Netherlands). We charge a small fee of € 10,- for lunch which can be paid in cash upon arrival.

For more information, please contact Hans Mulder, curator at the Artis Library (UvA). Phone: +31 (0)20 525 58 98 / +31 (0)6 29 39 31 99. Email:

We hope to welcome you on Wednesday, November 2nd in the Artis Library, Plantage Middenlaan 45, Amsterdam.


Hans Mulder, curator Artis Library UvA Tiemen Cocqyut, curator Boerhaave Museum and Jasper Buikx, microbiologist ARTIS-Micropia


Jasper Buikx is microbiologist and scientific curator of ARTIS-Micropia in Amsterdam. Since the opening of Micropia he has been responsible for scientific content and education. He studied biology at Leiden University and focuses on bridging the gap between science and society.

Tiemen Cocquyt is curator at Museum Boerhaave in Leiden. He is in charge of the natural science collections from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His research interests include optical instrumentation and cabinets of experimental philosophy. Currently he is working on an NWO-funded research project aiming at a better understanding of lens grinding practice and optical culture in the seventeenth-century Netherlands.

Eric Jorink is Teylers professor at Leiden University and researcher at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (KNAW) in Amsterdam. He is interested in the relation between science, religion and art in the early modern period. His publications include Reading the Book of Nature in the Dutch Golden Age 1575-1715 (Leiden 2010) and (together with Ad Maas, eds), Newton and the Netherlands. How Isaac Newton was fashioned in the Dutch Republic (Leiden 2012). In the academic year 2012-2013 he was Andrew W. Mellon visiting professor at the Courtauld Institute of Art where, together with Joanna Woodall, he taught the MA-course Visualizing Knowledge in the Early Modern Low Countries.

Irene Kopelman is an Argentinean artist based in Amsterdam. She was trained at the Rijksakademie, and in 2011 was the first artist in the Netherlands to obtain a PhD in the Fine Arts. Her work often revolves around the scientific classification of nature, representation, and the role of drawing as a method of research. She recently exhibited in Santa Fe, Berlin, Peru, Brussels and Sankt Gallen. In addition she published a number of artist books, including Three Interventions in a Space (2003) and Notes on Representation (2006-2014).

Hans Mulder is curator of Artis Library of the University of Amsterdam. He studied history at Utrecht University. He co-hosted the 2014 symposium on life and work of Maria Sibylla Merian and currently participates in the newly founded UvA research group Natura Artis Magistra. He teaches on the History of Natural History and the History of the Printed Book. Mulder chaired the Dutch Book Historical Society.

Lesley Robertson worked at Delft University of Technology until 2015 on microbiological wastewater treatment and as Biological Safety Officer. She is the Curator of the Delft School of Microbiology Archives, now at at the Delft Science Centre. One of the authors of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Master of the Miniscule, she spends a lot of her free time using facsimiles of 18th century microscopes and 21st century cameras to repeat some of Van Leeuwenhoek’s experiments.

Huib J. Zuidervaart is a Senior Historian of Science employed by the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). He studied Physics, Astronomy and History of Science at the VU University in Amsterdam and obtained a Ph.D. at Utrecht University on a dissertation on the history of astronomy in the 18th-century Dutch Republic. His main field of research is the history of science and scholarship in early modern Europe, with a focus on the history of scientific instruments and collections. For many years he was the Editor-in-chief of the journal Studium. Tijdschrift voor Wetenschaps- en Universiteitsgeschiedenis.