Newton and the Law of Gravitation [1965d]

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 21)


There has been recently a welcome revival of Newtonian studies. The Royal Society has at long last made a start with the publication of the correspondence1. Various scholars have brought to light much interesting new evidence from the too long neglected Newton manuscripts2. For the first time a thorough and competent study3 has been made of a side of his activity which had hitherto remained obscure: his historical researches, coloured by theological considerations, to which he himself attached great importance. By piecing together all this new evidence with long known, but little understood facts, one arrives, as I intend to show, at a view of Newton’s personality rather different from the traditional one. The latter is very much influenced by hero worship4, but it does not help to react to this — as recent biographers are inclined to do — by hero debunking. Newton’s personality is not easy to understand: secretive and suspicious as he was, one has to catch him, so to speak, in unguarded moments to get a glimpse of his thoughts and of his passions. To reconstruct a coherent portrait from the scraps of evidence gleaned from his papers, his letters and his actions is a hard detective work, but a rewarding one.


Royal Society Centrifugal Force Circular Motion Centrifugal Acceleration Inertial Motion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    The Correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton, vol. 1 (1661–1675). Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, 1959.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    The Correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton, vol. 2 (1676–1687). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1960.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    The Correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton, vol. 3 (1688–1694). Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1961.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Hall, A. R., Annals of Science 13, (1957). 62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Hall, A. R. & M. Boas Hall, Unpublished Scientific Papers of Isaac Newton. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1962.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Herivel, J. W., Isis 51 (1960). 546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    Herivel, J. W., Isis 52 (1961). 410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    Herivel, J. W., Revue d’histoire des sciences 15 (1962), 105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. [9]
    Herivel, J. W., Archives Intern, d’hist. des sciences 13 (1960), 63. 67. 71.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    Koyré, A., Archives Intern, d’hist. des sciences 13 (1960), 3.Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    Manuel, F. E., Isaac Newton Historian. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, 1963.Google Scholar
  12. [12]
    Rosenfeld, L., Nature 202 (1964). 43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    Brewster, D., Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton. Thomas Constable, Edinburgh. 1855.Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    Thomson, W. and P. G. Tail. Treatise on Natural Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1879.Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    Cajori, F., in: Sir Isaac Newton 1727–1927. pp. 127–188. Williams & Wilkins. Baltimore. 1928.Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    Newton, I., Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, Roy. Soc. London. 1687.Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    Stukeley, W., Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s life [1752], Taylor & Francis. London, 1936Google Scholar
  18. [18]
    Lohne, J., Centaurus 7 (1960), 6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. [19]
    Galilei, G., Dialogo dei due massimi sistemi del mondo. Landini, Firenze. 1632. Giornata seconda (from: ‘La vertigine veloce ha facultà di estrudere e dissipare’).Google Scholar
  20. [20]
    Huygens, C., Oeuvres complètes. Vol. 16. Nijhoff. La Have. 1929: De vi centrifuga (1659). pp. 237–328.Google Scholar
  21. [21]
    Huygens, C.: Horologium oscillatorium, Muguet. Parisiis. 1673. (Oeuvres completes, Vol. 18. Nijhoff, La Haye. 1934.)Google Scholar
  22. [22]
    Lohne, J., Archive for the History of Exact Sciences 1 (1961), 389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. [23]
    Rosenfeld, L., Nature 195 (1962), 414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. [24]
    Fierz, M., Gesnerus 11 (1954), 62.Google Scholar
  25. [25]
    Gregory, J. C., Transactions of the Royal Soc. of Edinburgh 12 (1829), 64.Google Scholar
  26. [26]
    Huygens, C., Oeuvres completes, Vol. 21. Nijhoff, La Haye, 1944.Google Scholar
  27. [27]
    Newton, L., Opticks, 2nd edition. W. Innys, London. 1717.Google Scholar
  28. [28]
    Robinet, A., Correspondance Leibniz-Clarke, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1957. [See H. G. Alexander, ed., The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (Manchester, England, Manchester University Press. 1956) — Ed.)Google Scholar
  29. [29]
    Whiteside, D. T., Notes and Records of the Royal Society 19 (1964), 53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. [30]
    Whiteside, D. T., British Journal for Hist. of Science 2 (1964), 117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations