The Revolution in Geology from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment
Hooke–Steno relations reconsidered: Reassessing the roles of Ole Borch and Robert Boyle
Published:April 01, 2009
Toshihiro Yamada, 2009. "Hooke–Steno relations reconsidered: Reassessing the roles of Ole Borch and Robert Boyle", The Revolution in Geology from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Gary D. Rosenberg
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It has been suggested that Robert Hooke had some influence upon Nicholas Steno’s forming geotheory, but decisive evidence has not yet been given. To reconsider the Hooke–Steno relationship, this paper examines Boyle–Steno relations by not only comparing their texts but by assessing a mediating role played by Ole Borch. In investigating the origin of the Stenonian terminology “solids within solids” in his Prodromus (1669), I shall point to two possible sources. One is represented in Steno’s first dissertation De thermis (1660), which was composed under the influence not only of scholastic themes but also of physiological textbooks of the age. The other is Robert Boyle’s texts on petrifaction and mineralogy written in the 1650s and 1660s, which appeared in part in 1661 and 1672, and which were ultimately published in 2000. A similar terminology for the relations of fluid/solid bodies is also observed in Hooke’s first dissertation on capillary action (1661), Attempt for the Explication of the Phaenomena, apparently deduced from the Boylean concept of fluidity and firmness. On the other hand, Steno’s mentor Borch met Boyle in 1663 during his journey through Europe, and it is likely he transmitted Boyle’s idea to Steno, though Steno himself made no reference to Boyle by name. The fact that Boyle’s works were a possible common source for Hookian and Stenonian geoscientific thought leads us to reconsider Boyle’s contribution to the history of early modern geotheory.