Article ID: CBB001251458

Jan Swammerdam's Frogs (2012)


Having discussed insect metamorphosis at length, Jan Swammerdam's Bybel der Natuure (1679/1737) reached its climax with a substantial description of the generation and muscular activity of frogs. This paper explores the rhetorical role of frogs in Swammerdam's `great work', showing how they were the Archimedean point from which he aimed to reorder all of creation---from insects to humans---within one glorious, God-ordained natural history and philosophy. Swammerdam linked insects to frogs through a demonstration that all underwent epigenesis; and frogs were then linked to humans through a demonstration of their identical muscular activity. The success of Swammerdam's strategy required a theological reconstruction of the frog, traditionally an ungodly creature, such that trustworthy knowledge could be obtained from its body. Perhaps surprisingly, this act of theological cleansing is shown to be somewhat prefigured in the distinctly non-experimental natural history of Edward Topsell (1608). The paper also examines Swammerdam's interactions with the mystic Antoinette Bourignon, and his challenges in reconciling a spirituality of meletetics with a material epistemology in natural philosophy. Differences are revealed between the natural analogies given by Swammerdam in his published and unpublished writings, undermining to a certain extent the triumphal insect--frog--human rhetorical structure of the Bybel.

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Authors & Contributors
Jorink, Eric
Wang, Xiaona
Hollewand, Karen
Rick Shine
Harry W. Greene
Taves, Ann
Tidsskrift for kulturforskning
Science and Christian Belief
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Janus: revue internationale de l'histoire des sciences, de la medecine, de la pharmacie et de la technique
Intellectual History Review
History of Religions
University of California Press
State University of New York Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Leiden University Press
Edwin Mellen Press
Science and religion
Occult sciences
Natural theology
Science and culture
Swammerdam, Jan
Harvey, William
Leeuwenhoek, Antoni van
Dee, John
de Graaf, Reinier
van Beverwijck, Johannes
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
16th century
20th century, late
Great Britain

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