Henry Oldenburg (Heinrich) (c. 1619 – 5 September 1677) was a German theologian known as a diplomat and a natural philosopher. He was one of the foremost intelligencers of Europe of the seventeenth century, with a network of correspondents to rival those of Fabri de Peiresc, Marin Mersenne and Ismaël Boulliau. At the foundation of the Royal Society he took on the task of foreign correspondence, as the first Secretary.
Born in Bremen, Germany, he trained in theology and received his degree on 2 November 1639. His movements during the 1640s are unclear, but he is thought to have worked as a tutor in England for much of the decade. In 1648 he left England and travelled, returning in the end to Bremen.
He came to London in 1653, as a diplomat; and settled in England of the Interregnum. He forged a strong relationship with his lifelong patron Robert Boyle, and was tutor to his nephew Richard Jones. Oldenburg married his second wife, Dora Katherina Dury (1654–77), the daughter of John Dury. Either through John Milton, whom he met early in his mission, or through Lady Ranelagh, sister to Boyle and the mother of Richard Jones, Oldenburg gained entry to an important intellectual circle, including Samuel Hartlib, whose extensive web of correspondents Oldenburg was to take over, John Dury who became his father-in-law, and others such as William Petty.
Secretary of the Royal Society
After the Restoration he became an early member (original fellow) of the Royal Society (founded in 1660), and served as its first secretary along with John Wilkins, maintaining an extensive network of scientific contacts through Europe. He also became the founding editor of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Oldenburg began the practice of sending submitted manuscripts to experts who could judge their quality before publication. This was the beginning of both the modern scientific journal and the practice of peer review. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society continues today and is the longest running scientific journal in the world.
Oldenburg enjoyed good health in his lifetime, but he fell seriously ill on 3 September 1677, and he died two days thereafter at his Pall Mall, London home. He was interred on 7 September at St Mary the Virgin, Bexley. His widow died ten days later.
- Johann Hevelius, Philipp Jacob Sachs von Lewenheimb, Johann Daniel Major, Martin Vogel Gottfried Leibniz
- Reinier de Graaf, Christiaan Huygens, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Willem Ten Rhijne, Benedictus Spinoza, Peter Serrarius
- Oldenburg, H. (1665). "Epistle Dedicatory". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 1: 0–0. doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0001.
- Hall, Marie Boas (2002). Henry Oldenburg: shaping the Royal Society. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-851053-5.
- Bluhm, R. K. (1960). "Henry Oldenburg, F.R.S. (c. 1615-1677)". Notes and Records of the Royal Society 15: 183–126. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1960.0018.
- Boas, pp. 16-18.
- Boas, p. 152-3.
- David S. Lux and Harold J. Cook, Closed circles or open networks?: communicating at a distance during the scientific revolution. History of Science, 36 (112). pp. 179-211 (PDF)
- Boas, p. 151.
- Boas, p. 80.
- Jean-Pierre Vittu, "Henry Oldenburg 'Grand intermédiaire'", in "Les grands intermédiaires culturels de la République des Lettres", pub. by Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck, Hans Bots and Jens Häseler, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2005, pp. 184–209