Antoni van Leeuwenhoeks Reactie op Pieter Rabus' Problemen met de Wichelroede

Palm, L. C.
Tijdschrift voor de Geschiedenis der Geneeskunde, Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Techniek
8:1, pp. 1-14
Amsterdam: Rodopi


Antoni van Leeuwenhoek's reaction to Pieter Rabus's problems with the divining-rod. When the Rotterdam editor of the review journal Boekzaal van Europe, Pieter Rabus, was visited by the bibliographer Cornelis van Beughem, a famous dowser, it appeared that Rabus's wife too possessed dowsing capacities. Astonished Rabus asked Van Leeuwenhoek to study the phenomenon. Following the corpuscular theories of the French priest Pierre le Lorrain de Vallemont Rabus himself considered dowsing to belong to the domain of the sciences and not to the occult. Although Van Leeuwenhoek at first mistrusted the reality of dowsing, he was convinced by demonstrations at his home; then he tried to explore its mechanism. He failed to discover special features in the wooden parts of divining-rods with his microscope. In his own characteristical way he subsequently preferred to put the problem aside instead of to formulate some speculative theory. Dowsing did not play a dominant role in scientific theories. Nevertheless the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences thought it fit to examine the reality of dowsing in 1948-1954; the results were completely negative. At the end of the seventeenth century De Vallemont's corpuscular theory could be used successfully by Balthasar Bekker in his quest for fighting the disastrous belief in the occult (e.g. witches).

full text in Dutch available online at Huygens ING.