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R.E. (Ruben) Verwaal

Assistant Professor

  • Department
  • Department of Public Health
Contact   External Profile



Ruben Verwaal is curator and historian at Erasmus MC. His research focuses on deafness, bodily fluids, and medical heritage.

In 2018 Ruben defended his PhD thesis on the chemistry of bodily fluids in eighteenth-century medicine at Groningen University. At the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham, Ruben conducted his NWO Rubicon postdoc project on the medical understandings and popular perceptions of d/Deafness in early modern Europe.

As curator, Ruben investigates medical history from a material-cultural perspective and organises topical exhibitions, such as the Yo, Doc, Listen Up! exhibition in 2022.



  • (2020). Bodily Fluids, Chemistry and Medicine in the Eighteenth-Century Boerhaave School. Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51541-6

Peer-reviewed journal articles

  • (2021). Fluid Deafness: Earwax and Hardness of Hearing in Early Modern Europe. Medical History 65: 366–383. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2021.29
  • with Marieke M.A. Hendriksen (2020). Boerhaave’s Furnace: Exploring Early Modern Chemistry through Working Models. Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 43: 385–411. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/bewi.202000005
  • (2017). The Nature of Blood: Debating Haematology and Blood Chemistry in the Eighteenth-Century Dutch Republic. Early Science and Medicine 22: 271–300. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15733823-00224P01

Chapters in edited volumes

  • (2022). Disputing Santorio: Johannes De Gorter’s Neurological Theory of Insensible Perspiration. In Santorio Santori and the Emergence of Quantified Medicine, Jonathan Barry & Fabrizio Bigotti. Palgrave Macmillan. 317–346. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-79587-0_12
  • (2020). Increasing and Reducing: Breastmilk Flows and Female Health. In Lifestyle and Medicine in the Enlightenment. James Kennaway & Rina Knoeff. Routledge. 223–239. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429465642-11
  • (2020). Blood: From Humor to Hematology. In Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences. Dana Jalobeanu & Charles T. Wolfe. Springer. 13. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20791-9_271-1
  • (2020). Een maquette op grote schaal: De campus van de Medische Faculteit Rotterdam. In De universitaire campus. Ab Flipse & Abel Streefland. Verloren. 15: 83–98
  • (2012). 荷兰的针灸历史 (History of acupuncture in the Netherlands). In 中国针灸交流通鉴. Bai Xinghua. Xi'an Jiaotong University Press. 158–171

Book reviews (selected)

  • (2022) White Blood: A History of Human Milk. Ambix 69: 197–198. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00026980.2022.2058175
  • (2021) The Fabrica of Andreas Vesalius: A worldwide descriptive census, ownership, and annotations of the 1543 and 1555 editions. Centaurus 63: 814–816. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1600-0498.12383
  • (2021) Fluid Bodies and Bodily Fluids in Premodern Europe: Bodies, Blood, and Tears in Literature, Theology and Art. H-Soz-Kult. URL: http://www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/reb-50263
  • (2016) Uroscopy in Early Modern Europe. Sixteenth Century Journal 47: 699–700. URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44815697
  • (2016) Cradle of Chemistry: The Early Years of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. Isis 107: 634–635. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/688366

(Co-)curated exhibitions

  • (2022) Hoor eens even! / Yo, doc, listen up! Erasmus MC
  • (2021) Geheugen van Erasmus MC, Erasmus MC
  • (2019) Ik sta paf! / Holy Smoke! Erasmus MC
  • (2019) Signed, Sealed & Undelivered. Brienne.org
  • (2017) Gelukkig gezond! Histories of Healthy Ageing. University Museum Groningen

Popular science publications (selected)

  • (2023). Bloed, zweet en tranen: Over de vloeibare mens. Thomas Rap
  • (2021). 保持と排泄. In 老いと健康の文化史西洋式養生訓のあゆみ. ノエフ,リナ 原書房. 175–200. Translation of (2017) Retention and Excretion. In Gelukkig Gezond! Histories of Healthy Ageing. Rina Knoeff. Barkhuis. 98–111
  • (2021). The Recovery of Earwax in Early Modern Europe. Symeon 11 (2021): 14–17
  • (2021). Een nieuwe blik op doofheid: Het project Deafness in Transition. VHZ-online (29 January). URL: https://vhz-online.nl/een-nieuwe-blik-op-doofheid
  • (2021). Pokkenzooi: Anti-vaxxers in de achttiende eeuw. Wonderkamer 3: 23–26
  • (2020). Contagious! Visiting an Exhibition on Epidemic Diseases, The Polyphony (21 September). URL: https://thepolyphony.org/2020/09/21/contagious-visiting-an-exhibition-on-epidemic-diseases/
  • (2015). Pee in a Jar?! Dirty Materials in the History of Science. Shells & Pebbles (18 October). URL: https://www.shellsandpebbles.com/2015/10/18/pee-in-a-jar-dirty-materials-in-history-of-science/

Media coverage (selected)

  • (2022) Podcast interview, “The Ear Trumpet,” Patented, History Hit, 10 April
  • (2021) Radio interview, Nieuws BV, Radio 1, 2 February
  • (2021) Newspaper interview, “Boerhaave was fan van borstvoeding”, NRC Handelsblad, 30 January
  • (2019) TV interview, Studio Erasmus, TV Rijnmond, 22 October
  • (2018) Journal interview, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Heelkunde 27, November
  • (2018) Journal interview, Laboratoriumgeneeskunde 1 (4), September, pp. 19–21
  • (2016) Radio interview, Nieuwsshow, AVROTROS, Radio 1, 31 January
  • (2016) Newspaper interview, “Pis, beproefd lotion in de 18e eeuw,” Volkskrant, 19 January

Teaching activities

  • Diversity & Inclusion, bachelor and master, Erasmus MC
  • Clinical Technology, bachelor, TU Delft, LUMC, and Erasmus MC
  • History of Medicine, bachelor, UMCG
  • Disability History, Medical Humanities master, Durham University
  • Supervisor internships, Medical Heritage, EUR and Erasmus MC

Other positions

  • Curator of the Medical Collections, Erasmus MC
  • Honorary Fellow, Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham
  • Board Member of Gewina, the Belgian-Dutch Society for the History of Science and Universities

Scholarships, grants, and awards

  • (2022) Workshop Grant, Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham
  • (2021) Rubicon COVID-19 Extension Grant, Dutch Research Council
  • (2019) Rubicon Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dutch Research Council
  • (2019) Research Fellowship, Centre for Health and Humanities, Groningen
  • (2018) Large Grant, Centre for Public Engagement, Queen Mary University of London
  • (2017) Herzog-Ernst Fellowship, Gotha Research Library, Erfurt
  • (2017) Santorio Fellowship, Centre for the Study of Medicine and the Body, Pisa
  • (2017) Masterclass Grant, Huizinga Institute, Amsterdam
  • (2016) Van de Sande Fellowship, Scaliger Institute, Leiden
  • (2015) Travel Grant, History of Science Society

Current research projects

Deafness in Transition: Disability and Hearing Difference in Enlightenment Europe