PhD Studentship: “In the footsteps of Newton? ‘s Gravesande’s Scientific Methodology”

Four-year PhD Studentship “In the footsteps of Newton? ‘s Gravesande’s Scientific Methodology” (1 January 2014 – 31 December 2018; full-time)

Based at the Free University of Brussels (Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science) the project “In the footsteps of Newton? ‘s Gravesande’s Scientific Methodology” runs from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2018. The research project is funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). The doctoral student will conduct his or her doctoral research under the supervision of Prof. dr. Steffen Ducheyne.

Description of the research project:

This research project will scrutinize W. J. ‘s Gravesande’s (1688-1742) scientific methodology. ‘s Gravesande was one of earliest advocates of Newtonianism on the Continent and his works were highly influential. Surprisingly, there are few detailed studies of ‘s Gravesande’s methodological views proper and their relevance for his scientific practice. This research project seeks to fill in this scholarly gap by providing a historical and philosophical account of ‘s Gravesande’s methodology both in precept and in practice. Following ‘s Gravesande’s own statements, many scholars have been led to believe that he was a follower of Newton’s methodology without, however, providing detailed justification for this claim. The overarching goal of this research proposal is to explicate ‘s Gravesande’s scientific methodology and to determine whether or not his methodology may be rightfully considered as ‘Newtonian’. Given its set-up, this research proposal will have broader implications for the study of eighteenth-century Newtonianism in general. (The extended version of this research proposal is available upon request.)


  • The candidate should have a strong interest in the history of science from historical as well as philosophical perspectives and be able to combine both in his or her doctoral research. Knowledge of early eighteenth-century physics is a plus.
  • The candidate has a Master’s degree in Philosophy or a Master’s degree with clear affinity to the research project.
  • The candidate is an enthusiastic team player and is highly motivated.
  • The candidate is willing to travel abroad.
  • The candidate will be expected to publish in international journals, to present his or her research at international conferences, to engage actively in departmental life and research, and to assist in the organization of workshops and conferences.
  • The doctoral research should lead to a PhD dissertation which is to be completed in a four-year period.
  • The candidate should be able to read – if necessary, with the help of dictionaries – French, Dutch, and Latin and be able to present research results in English both orally and in writing.


  • A four-year contract as a full time scientific member of the Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel).
  • Opportunity to follow an individualized PhD-programme at the university’s Doctoral School of Human Sciences.
  • Extra benefits: free public transport between home and campus, biking fee, access to university sports facilities and university restaurants.

How to apply:

Please send – preferably in a single file – (1) a cover letter describing your interest in and suitability for this PhD studentship, (2) a full curriculum vitae (including the topic of your MA dissertation and your MA grades), (3) at least one letter of recommendation, and (4) a representative writing sample (such as an extract from your MA dissertation) to before Monday 7 October 2013. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed (if necessary, via Skype).

Please contact Steffen Ducheyne for more information.


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