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After Boyle and the Leviathan: the Second Generation of British Air Pumps

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Abstract:

This paper examines the second generation of British air pumps, covering the period 1700-1750. The air pump originated in the 1650s and 1660s thanks to the work of Otto von Guericke in Magdeburg, Robert Boyle in Oxford and London, and Accademia del Cimento in Florence. While these first models were often seen as unreliable and temperamental, and available to a small group only, the next period saw the air pump transformed into a publicly accessible device for use in public and private demonstrations, in practical applications, as well as in the production of new knowledge. In England, the instrument maker Francis Hauksbee and his followers played a decisive role in this process, which was connected, among other things, to popular medicine, anatomy and health. In this period, pneumatics (the field of air pumps and air-pump practice) reached a state where the pump came to be regarded as an unproblematic tool; and where a 'vacuum' came to be thought of and handled as an object.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00033790.2010.500604

Affiliations: Department of History and Religious Studies, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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