Daniel Sennert (1572-1637) was a professor of medicine at Wittenberg and was one of the first to introduce chymistry* into the German academy. His ideas about medicine, chymistry, and atomism had a large influence within Germany and with later intellectuals such as Robert Boyle (1627-1691) and Joachim Jungius (1587-1657). Sennert has been called an archetypical transitional figure, and his ideas and works were some of the driving forces behind the ascendancy of chymistry within the university and in the Scientific Revolution at large, but many aspects of his work have received only scant attention.
One particular desideratum is an analysis of Sennert's medicine. Close attention to Sennert's texts on medicine, including early ephemeral works such as dissertations and disputations, allows for a study of the interactions among Sennert's medicine and his experimental chymistry and atomism. I also give special attention to the controversy over atomism that arose in the final years of Sennert's life when Johann Freitag (1581-1641) brought charges of heresy against the Wittenberg Professor for his atomism and other ostensibly blasphemous teachings.
I am especially interested in Sennert's letters, which, thanks to the tireless work of several seventeenth-century physicians, were saved from war and rot nearly thirty years after Sennert had succumbed to the plague. The manuscripts letters were taken from Sennert's birthplace, Breslau, to Lyon, where they were edited and published.
Because these letters were not edited by the authors for publication, and because a large majority were exchanged with Sennert’s closest collaborator, his brother-in-law, Breslau physician Michael Döring, they were written in a relatively candid fashion, and thus provide a unique window into one of the major centers of experimental chymistry and chymical medicine in the early seventeenth century.
Likewise, these epistles show the birth of a new chymical medicine in the “chymical college” of the Lutheran university during the Thirty Years’ War, but they also provide a personal context in which we learn that Sennert and Döring were both beset by economic hardship and afflicted bydebilitating gout.
* 'Chymistry' was the transitional discipline between medieval alchemy and modern chemistry. It preserves a common spelling from the early-modern period.