Beyond Priority

  • Francesco G. Sacco
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 231)


On August 28, 1686, the manuscript of Newton’s Principia was presented to the Royal Society. The book was dedicated to the Society, and the fellows “were so very sensible of the Great Honour” that they considered printing the book at the Society’s expenses. According to Halley’s account, one fellow was less enthusiast than others about that “incomparable treatise.” “Mr Hooke,” Halley wrote to Newton, “has some pretentions upon the inventions of ye rule of the decrease of Gravity, being the square of the distances from the Center.” A controversy between the two men soon sparked. Hooke, on the one hand, acknowledged that only Newton successfully demonstrated how gravity leads to the elliptic orbits of planets. He claimed that Newton adopted “the notion” of the inverse square law from him, and expected to be mentioned in the preface of that “incomparable treatise.” Newton, on the other hand, refused that claim altogether. He countered that he knew the inverse square law long before he discussed it with Hooke, who probably had it from Wren and Borelli. For this reason, his name was mentioned in the System of the World along those of the other two scholars. Newton would concede nothing more.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco G. Sacco
    • 1
  1. 1.Humanities DepartmentCATS CollegeCanterburyUK

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