Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

Joyce van Leeuwen

Thesis: The Aristotelian Mechanics: Text and Diagrams.
My thesis focuses on the transmission and transformation processes of the Aristotelian Mechanics, the earliest known theoretical treatment of machines. I analyzed all extant manuscripts of the Mechanics, resulting in a newly established stemma codicum. This research led to new insights concerning the transmission of the treatise. Most importantly, I have shown the urgent need for a new text. Whereas the Byzantine manuscript tradition is characterized by meticulous copying of the text, the diagrams in the manuscripts and printed texts present various modifications of the mechanical contents. I argued that the manuscript diagrams are significant for a reconstruction of the authentic text; yet at the same time they can be considered as a commentary on the text. For this reason, diagrams are a powerful tool to study processes of the transfer and transformation of knowledge. This becomes especially relevant when the Byzantine manuscript diagrams are compared with those in the printed editions and commentaries from the early modern period. I have shown that these early modern diagrams and images reflect the altered scope of the mechanical discipline in the sixteenth century.


Joyce van Leeuwen received her masterʼs degree in Classics at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Her doctoral research focused on the tradition of the Aristotelian Mechanics.

Her research interests are in the fields of classical philology and history of science.

Currently she is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, where she is working on visual practices in scientific texts from the early modern period.
Selected publications:
Van Leeuwen, J. (2014). Thinking and Learning from Diagrams in the Aristotelian Mechanics. Nuncius, 29, 53-87.
Van Leeuwen, J. (2013). The Text of the Aristotelian Mechanics. Classical Quarterly, 63. 1, 183-198.