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News and Views - Newton's Critique of the Law of Universal Gravitation

by Hans Mühlen (Nordita)

Albano 3:6228 - Mega (22 seats) (Albano Building 3)

Albano 3:6228 - Mega (22 seats)

Albano Building 3


It is a commonplace that the pioneers of theories of physics thought very differently about their theories than we do today. And the further back in history the origin of a theory lies, the less likely it is that we would understand the original documents. I will illustrate this with looking a bit closer at Newton and his views on his Law of Universal Gravity, in particular his ideas about action at a distance, an important aspect of that law. My starting point will be an often quoted text by Newton where he appears to severely criticize his own theory, and the wildly different interpretations of this quote suggested by historians of science. What resources are available to us, today, to try to make sense of such (apparently) weird historical texts?