A Worm in Newton’s Apple

  • Robert Weinstock
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 136)


The early history of Newton’s Principia is well known. Its genesis was a summer 1684 visit by Edmund Halley of Oxford to Isaac Newton at Cambridge. Here is a paraphrase of a portion of their reported conversation: “Along what curve would a body travel”, asked Halley, “if it were attracted to a fixed other body by a force inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them?” “A conic section”, was Newton’s immediate reply: “an ellipse, an hyperbola, or a parabola”. “How do you know?” asked Halley. “I’ve worked it out mathematically”, declared Newton. “Remarkable!” cried Halley; “show me the work”. Newton could not then find the required papers, but several weeks later he reproduced his solution and sent the result to the admiring Halley, whose reaction was electric.


Conic Section Centripetal Force Require Paper Planetary Motion Hundredth Anniversary 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • Robert Weinstock

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