Henry Oldenburg

First name
Last name
Date of Birth
Date of Death
Born in
Died in
London, Pall Mall


Presumably, Oldenburg met Spinoza in Rijnsburg when he visited nearby Leiden and, virtually certain, the encounter took place when Oldenburg travelled from [Amsterdam] to Utrecht, sometime before 29 July. Almost three weeks after Oldenburg had safely returned (9 August 1661) in London, he dispatched a letter to Spinoza on 26 August, in which he invited him to start a philosophical correspondence.

The letter of 16/26 August, the earliest one known in Spinoza’s exchange, marks the beginning of the long-termed epistolary contact with Oldenburg. They would remain rather loyal friends until Spinoza’s unexpected death in early 1677. During the course of 1675 and 1676, however their relationship started to show cracks when topics of their discussions specifically boiled down to matters theological, like Spinoza’s outspoken denial of the actual resurrection of Christ and the importance of miracles. The two men exchanged more than thirty letters in Latin—some of them with enclosures—over the long period from 26 August 1661 to 11 February 1676, with a hiatus between 18 December 1665 and April/May 1675. Twenty-five letters of their exchange were printed in Spinoza’s posthumous works. Four letters were transmitted otherwise whereas another the existence of five more letters in their correspondence can be postulated from textual or circumstantial evidence.

Spinoza took advantage of Oldenburg's prominent role as mediator —an expert editor, translator, secretary, publisher and intelligencer—in the world of early modern European science and as one of the principal hubs of correspondence between England and the continent. Oldenburg was one of the Founder Fellows of the British ‘Invisible College’ of natural philosophers, the supposed precursor of the London Royal Society (founded in July 1662), which made flourish the natural sciences in Britain. On top of that, he also was the editor of the Society’s periodical Philosophical Transactions launched by him in 1665, in which news about contemporary science and natural philosophy was communicated.



Adam Boreel


Samuel Hartlib


Theodorus Ryckius


Johannes Hevelius


Robert Moray


Johannes Heinrich Ott


Benedictus Spinoza, de


Johannes Coccejus