Thinking with Objects: The Transformation of Mechanics in the Seventeenth Century

Thinking with Objects: The Transformation of Mechanics in the Seventeenth Century

by Domenico Bertoloni Meli


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Thinking with Objects offers a fresh view of the transformation that took place in mechanics during the 17th century. By giving center stage to objects—levers, inclined planes, beams, pendulums, springs, and falling and projected bodies—Domenico Bertoloni Meli provides a unique and comprehensive portrayal of mechanics as practitioners understood it at the time.

Bertoloni Meli reexamines such major texts as Galileo’s Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy, and Newton’s Principia, and in them finds a reliance on objects that has escaped proper understanding. From Pappus of Alexandria to Guidobaldo dal Monte, Bertoloni Meli sees significant developments in the history of mechanical experimentation, all of them crucial for understanding Galileo. Bertoloni Meli uses similarities and tensions between dal Monte and Galileo as a springboard for exploring the revolutionary nature of seventeenth-century mechanics.

Examining objects helps us appreciate the shift from the study to the practice of mechanics and challenges artificial dichotomies among practical and conceptual pursuits, mathematics, and experiment.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801884276
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 11/17/2006
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.05(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Domenico Bertoloni Meli is a professor of history and philosophy of science at Indiana University.

Table of Contents

1. Beyond Inertia: From Laws to Objects
2. Motion and Mechanics
3. The Role of Mathematics
4. Experience and Experiment
5. Practitioners, Sites, and Forms of Communication
6. Structure and Organization of the Present Work
1. Machines in the Field, in the Book, and in the Study
1.1. Between Classical Theory and Engineering Practice
1.2. Machines, Equilibrium, and Motion
1.3. The Balance of dal Monte and the Problem of Rigor
1.4. Pulleys and the Contingency of Matter
1.5. Rival Traditions on the Inclined Plane
2. Floating Bodies and a Mathematical Science of Motion
2.1. Some Features of Archimedes' Floating Bodies
2.2. Reading Floating Bodies
2.3. Benedetti against the Philosophers
2.4. Galileo's Early Speculations
2.5. Mazzoni, Stevin, and Galileo
3. The Formulation of New Mathematical Sciences
3.1. The Broadening of the Mechanical Tradition
3.2. Galileo at Padua and the Science of Motion
3.3. From Buoyancy to the Science of Waters
3.4. Motion between Heaven and Earth
3.5. The Science of the Resistance of Materials
3.6. The Science of Motion
4. Novel Reflections and Quantitative Experiments
4.1. Different Readings of Galileo
4.2. Mersenne's Harmonie and the Dialogo
4.3. Rethinking Galileo's Axiomatic Structure
4.4. Continuity and the Law of Fall
4.5. Trials with Projectiles, Pierced Cisterns, and Beams
4.6. The Experiments and Tables of Riccioli
5. The Motion and Collision of Particles
5.1. The Rise of the Mechanical Philosophy
5.2. Mechanics and the Mechanical Philosophy
5.3. Beeckman, Galileo, and Descartes
5.4. Motion and Its Laws
5.5. From the Balance to Impact: Beeckman, Marci, and Descartes
5.6. The Workings of the Cartesian Universe
Intermezzo: Generational and Institutional Changes
6. The Equilibrium and Motion of Liquids
6.1. A Characterization of a Research Tradition
6.2. Studies around the Time of the Cimento Academy
6.3. Pressure and Equilibrium in Pascal and Boyle
6.4. Studying the Motion of Waters North of the Alps
6.5. Guglielmini and the Bologna Scene
6.6. Experiments Combining Pressure and Speed
7. Projected, Oscillating, and Orbiting Bodies
7.1. The Tools of Investigation
7.2. The Analyses of Orbital Motion by Fabri and Borelli
7.3. Falling Bodies on a Moving Earth
7.4. Projectiles and Air Resistance
7.5. Huygens's Pendulum
7.6. English Approaches to Orbital Motion
8. Colliding Bodies, Springs, and Beams
8.1. The Emergence of Elasticity
8.2. Boyle and Elasticity
8.3. The Transformation of the Impact Rules
8.4. Springs between Technology and Cosmology
8.5. Bending and Breaking Beams
9. A New World-System
9.1. Teamwork and Anti-Cartesianism
9.2. Halley, Wren, Hooke, and Newton
9.3. The Principia's Structure and Conceptual Framework
9.4. The Role of Experiments
9.5. The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
9.6. A New World-System: Newton and Flamsteed
10. Causes, Conservation, and the New Mathematics
10.1. Mechanics at the Turn of the Century
10.2. The New Analysis
10.3. Conservation
10.4. Early Responses to Newton's Principia
10.5. The New Analysis and Newton's Principia
Conclusion: Mapping the Transformations of Mechanics

What People are Saying About This

Pamela O. Long

A brilliant study that is sure to become a classic in its field. Here, the author radically shifts the focus of traditional scholarship and that of historiographic inquiry. He effectively challenges many presuppositions that have been brought to the history of the scientific revolution, including the one that assumes the separation of experimental and mathematical traditions, showing that modern distinctions between theory and practice are just that, modern, and not necessarily applicable to early modern categories. An erudite, profoundly learned, and important work.

Pamela O. Long, author of Openness, Secrecy, Authorship

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