Action and Reaction: Proceedings of a Symposium to Commemorate the Tercentenary of Newton's Principia

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This volume grows out of a symposium commemorating the three-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, held at the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution in 1987. Widely acknowledged to be the most important scientific work ever published, the 1687 Principia contains the first complete statement of principles that were to govern physical science into the nineteenth century. Presented here is a sampling of the best current scholarship on the Principia, its context, and its influence. The essays reflect the depth of inquiry and diversity of research that have characterized the last generation of work on Newton. The volume opens with an essay by Richard S. Westfall that justifies claims that Newton was the "culmination of the scientific revolution." The I. Bernard Cohen essay that follows illustrates the difference between "mathematical principles" and "natural philosophy." Two complementary papers give new insights into the Newtonian foundations of celestial mechanics: William Harper analyzes Newton's argument for universal gravitation from the perspective of a philosopher of science; Michael S. Mahoney discusses the mathematical aspects of Newton's use of force law to determine planetary orbits. B. J. T. Dobbs uses her research on alchemy to develop an integrated view of Newton's work, while P. E. Spargo explores the alchemistic theme in his paper on chemical experiments. Studies of comets are linked to the seventeenth-century political context in a novel way by Simon Schaffer. Anita Guerrini proves that Newton's concepts of the structure of matter and ether inspired speculations about the nature of insanity, while Norriss Hetherington shows that Newton's formulation of natural laws served as an inspirational model for Adam Smith's formulation of economic laws. Arthur Donovan argues that Lavoisier's formulation of chemistry was not carried out in imitation of Newtonian natural phi
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874134469
  • Publisher: University of Delaware Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1993
  • Pages: 324

Table of Contents

Director's Preface 9
Introduction 11
The Culmination of the Scientific Revolution: Isaac Newton 31
The Principia, the Newtonian Style, and the Newtonian Revolution in Science 61
"The Unity of Truth": An Integrated View of Newton's Work 105
Newton's Chemical Experiments: An Analysis in the Light of Modern Chemistry 123
Reasoning from Phenomena: Newton's Argument for Universal Gravitation and the Practice of Science 144
Algebraic vs. Geometric Techniques in Newton's Determination of Planetary Orbits 183
Comets & Idols: Newton's Cosmology and Political Theology 206
Ether Madness: Newtonianism, Religion, and Insanity in Eighteenth-Century England 232
Newton and Lavoisier: From Chemistry as a Branch of Natural Philosophy to Chemistry as a Positive Science 255
Isaac Newton and Adam Smith: Intellectual Links between Natural Science and Economics 277
A Modern Look at Newton's Final Queries 292
Overview: Newton's Place in History 300
Notes on Contributors 312
Index 317
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