A tale of a threshing machine: Images of the Voigt-Leibniz mathematical-agricultural machine at the beginning of the 18th century

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Abstract

This paper examines how a certain threshing machine was developed and improved by Jobst Heinrich Voigt and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz between 1699 and 1700. While this machine was based on various mechanical principles and instruments, including the pinned drum mechanism first noted by Georg Philipp Harsdörffer, it was later reconceptualized as a ‘mathematical’ machine. I claim that such a positioning was not unique to this machine, but part of a wider movement during the 18th century that considered various artisanal instruments as mathematical, as well as agricultural and artisanal knowledge as scientific. Examining the development and subsequent reception of this machine, I show that during the first decades of the 18th century these conceptions gave rise to a double image of this machine, and hence of agricultural knowledge in general: on the one hand, this machine was considered as more efficient and productive (while still in need of improvement); on the other hand, it was viewed, either implicitly or explicitly, as something that should be studied by mathematicians, thus reflecting a changing image of mathematics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-31
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science
Volume105
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2024

Funding

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation461/21
Israel Science Foundation

    Keywords

    • Economic and agricultural enlightenment
    • Leibniz
    • Mathematization of agricultural instruments
    • Pinned drums
    • Threshing machine

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