Theory and Practice in Early Modern Physics

  • Stillman Drake
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 151)


From the time of Aristotle to that of Galileo, physics had remained pure theory unmixed with knowledge gained from experience. Mechanics as a mixed science being regarded as subordinate and inferior to physics, the concept of a domain for the practice of physics did not exist until the seventeenth century. The practice of astronomy existed separately from the science of cosmology, and a certain tension between them held ever since Hipparchus and Geminus. A similar tension had held since antiquity between music theorists and practitioners of music. The same is true of architecture and hydraulics. But physics, by Aristotle’s definitions, had no practical component.


Seventeenth Century Incline Plane Scientific Revolution Musical Theory Discovery Document 
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  1. 1.
    Galileo’s Treatise de motu gravium,reprinted in Metaphysics and Measurement (London, 1968), p. 75.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Details are given in my `Hipparchus — Geminus — Galileo’, Stud. Hist. Philos. Science 20: 1 (1989), pp. 47–56.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Descartes to Marin Mersenne, 11 October 1638. Translated in S. Drake, Galileo at Work (Chicago 1978 ), pp. 387–8.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Benedetti’s proposition is translated in I. E. Drabkin & S. Drake, Mechanics in Sixteenth-Century Italy (Madison 1960), pp. 147–53 as it first appeared at Venice in 1553.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Translated in S. Drake, `A neglected Galilean letter’, Irnl. Hist. of Astron. 17 (1987), pp. 93–105.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Johannes Kepler, Mysterium Cosmographicum, tr. A. M. Duncan (New York 1981), esp. pp. 85–105.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    S. Drake, Galileo against the Philosophers (Los Angeles 1976), p. 38.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Claude Palisca, `Scientific Empiricism in Musical Thought’, in H. H. Rhys, ed., Seventeenth Century Science and the Arts (Princeton 1961 ), p. 137.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Details are given in the second edition of my translation of Galileo’s Two New Sciences (Toronto, Wall & Thompson, 1989).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stillman Drake
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoCanada

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