Saskia Klerk


Saskia Klerk joined the ERC-research project as a research fellow for three years from Oct. 2014 to develop the subproject “Medicine and natural history”. The aim of this subproject is to investigate the study of plants, animals and minerals by early modern physicians with a focus on their writing practices.

Central questions are: Why and in what ways did physicians inform themselves about plants, animals and minerals? How are their writing practices connected to the study of these subjects? What different ways of writing constituted the practice of natural history?

Saskia received her MSc degree in History and Philosophy of Science from Utrecht University in 2009 and defended her dissertation Galen Reconsidered. Studying drug properties and the foundations of medicine in the Dutch Republic Ca. 1550-1700 on February 2015. She carried out her research while at the former Institute for the History and Foundations of Science (now at the Freudenthal Institute), and as a member of the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities.

She has published on the teaching of materia medica by Pieter Paaw, medical professor and prefect of the academic garden of Leiden University and on the relationship between taste, reason and experience in the pharmacology taught at the same university. In her dissertation she argued for the importance of Galenism for the seventeenth-century study of drug properties.


  • Blog posts: Dutch medicines,
  • “The order of things (2)” (with Sietske Fransen)., [23.02.2016].
  • To break or not to break (2): From Cairo to Dordrecht” (with Sietske Fransen). [18.08.2016].
  • “To break or not to break (1): Reading Van Beverwijck´s Steen-stuck” (with Sietske Fransen), [19.05.2016].
  • “Catch the Hare: Remedies for the Stone” (with Sietske Fransen). [ [28.01.2016].
  • “Van Helmont´s Recipes” (with Sietske Fransen). The Recipes Project. Food, Magic, Art, Science and Medicine. [, 24.11.2015].
  • “Review of Dirk van Miert, ed., Communicating Observations in Early Modern Letters (1500-1675): Pistolography and Epistemology in the Age of the Scientific Revolution (London & turin: TheWarburg Institute & Nino Aragno Editore 2013). In: Studium, vol. 8, no. 3 (2015).
  • “Review of Karl A.E. Enenkel en Paul J. Smith eds. Zoology in Early Modern Culture. Intersections of science, theology, philology and political and religious education” (Brill academic publishers, 2014). In: Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis (2015).
  • “Galen reconsidered. Studying drug properties and the foundations of medicine in the Dutch Republic ca. 1550-1700″. Ridderkerk, Jan. 2015.
  • “The Trouble with Opium. Taste, reason and experience in late Galenic pharmacology with special regard to the University of Leiden (1575–1625)”, in: Early science and medicine 19 (2014) 287-316.
  • “Review of Leydse Weelde. Groene ontdekkingen in de Gouden eeuw. Exhibition in Museum Boerhaave and Esther van Gelder, ed., Bloeiende kennis. Groene ontdekkingen in de Gouden Eeuw (Hilversum 2012)”, in: Studium 1 (2013) 52-54.
  • “Teaching the materiae medicae at Leyden University: between natural history, botany and the foundations of medicine”, in: Esther van Gelder and Nicolas Robin, eds. Practice, Expertise and Identity in Clusius’ World. Jahrbuch für Europäische Wissenschaftskultur / Yearbook for European Culture of Science special Clusius issue 2012/2013.
  • “Satirische en wetenschappelijke reacties op tafelklopperij’ (1853)”, in: Studium 4 (2008) 287-297.