Newton's Dream

Newton's Dream

Edited by MARCIA SWEET STAYER
Consulting Editor BORIS CASTEL
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 144
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt80p8j
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  • Book Info
    Newton's Dream
    Book Description:

    This lively collection of lectures presented at the symposium by prominent scholars was collected and edited by Marcia Stayer with the assistance of Boris Castel. The chapters outline the influence of the "Principia" on the work of Newton's contemporaries - such as Adam Smith - and on many areas of present-day science: particle physics, optics, astronomy, and non-mechanical fields such as computer theory. Contributors include A.P. French, Werner Israel, W.H. Newton-Smith, David Raphael, Stephen Smale, Steven Weinberg, Richard S. Westfall, and Denys Wilkinson.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6193-9
    Subjects: Mathematics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 1-2)
  4. Preface
    (pp. 3-3)
  5. Newton and the Scientific Revolution
    (pp. 4-18)
    RICHARD S. WESTFALL

    Isaac Newton publishedPhilosophiae naturalis principia mathematica: The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophyin July 1687. Seldom has the significance of a book been more immediately recognized. Indeed, its recognition began even before publication. In the spring of 1687, Fatio de Duillier, a young Swiss mathematician who would play a central role in Newton’s life during the following six years, arrived in London. He found the learned community aflutter in expectation of the book which was destined, they told him, to remodel natural philosophy (Fatio 167-69). Similarly thePhilosophical Transactionsof the Royal Society carried a review of thePrincipia,...

  6. Science, Rationality, and Newton
    (pp. 19-35)
    W.H. NEWTON-SMITH

    In 1739 there appeared an English translation of the charming Italian workSir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explained for the Use of the Ladiesby one Francesco Algarotti. It is in the form of a dialogue between the author and a discreetly unnamed marchioness. By page 170 of the second of these two volumes, the marchioness has been guided through Newton’s universal law of gravitation. She herself has been led to calculate that if the distance between two bodies is increased by a factor of five, the force of gravitational attraction is diminished by a factor of twenty-five.

    I cannot help...

  7. Newton and Adam Smith
    (pp. 36-49)
    D.D. RAPHAEL

    Professor Richard Westfall, in the first of these papers, has said of Isaac Newton’sPrincipiathat no subsequent event, to his knowledge, has matched the impact on western civilization of the publication of that work in 1687. The nineteenth-century historian, Henry Thomas Buckle, said of Adam Smith’sWealth of Nations: “looking at its ultimate results, [it] is probably the most important book that has ever been written” (1: 194). Both these judgments reflect the enthusiasm of the partisan, but that of Professor Westfall (who candidly acknowledges that he is “not exactly an impartial judge”) is both more sober and more...

  8. Isaac Newton, Explorer of the Real World
    (pp. 50-77)
    A.P. FRENCH

    My purpose in this paper is to try to explain, from the standpoint of a working physicist, why I consider Newton to be the greatest scientist who has ever lived. Despite the god-like status that some have tried to ascribe to him, he was of course a fallible human being, and I do not mean merely that he seems to have had a seriously flawed personality. I am thinking much more in terms of his work than of his character. Modern scholarship has amply demonstrated that he groped and fumbled, as all scientists do, in approaching a new problem, that...

  9. From White Dwarfs to Black Holes: The History of a Revolutionary Idea
    (pp. 78-89)
    WERNER ISRAEL

    Although it is hard today to remember a time when black holes were not a part of everyday discourse, only twenty years ago no one had ever heard the term “black hole” in an astronomical context. It was coined by John Wheeler of Princeton in an after-dinner talk to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in New York on 29 December 1967. The name and its connotations immediately captured the public imagination. Books on black holes are now to be had in every bookstore, though to find them it may be necessary to search the shelves on mysticism...

  10. The Newtonian Contribution to Our Understanding of the Computer
    (pp. 90-95)
    STEPHEN SMALE

    Isaac Newton made a continuous mathematical model of a discrete universe using differential equations to explain how things in that universe move. Mathematicians can look at the computer today in the same way that Newton looked at the world in the seventeenth century to gain some understanding of “the machine.” One can try to understand the computer in a way similar to the way a physicist understands the world, a different way from the engineers’ approach. In order to understand the laws of computation one can design a mathematical model using continuous mathematics and calculus to lead to a deeper...

  11. Newton’s Dream
    (pp. 96-106)
    STEVEN WEINBERG

    This publication arises out of a symposium organized to celebrate a great book published 300 years ago, thePrincipiaof Isaac Newton. In this book Newton outlined a new theory of motion and a new theory of gravity, and succeeded thereby in explaining not only the apparent motions of bodies in the solar system, but terrestrial phenomena like tides and falling fruits as well. In other work Newton developed the mathematics of the calculus.¹ Newton also performed fundamental experiments in the theory of optics and wrote books about biblical chronology. Yet with all these accomplishments Newton can be said to...

  12. Symmetry in Art and Nature
    (pp. 107-132)
    DENYS WILKINSON

    When we seek to describe the way in which the world is built, that is to say, grandly speaking, the structure of the universe, we inevitably bring to that attempted understanding the prejudices that derive from our own nature and everyday experiences. But our human nature ranges over matters such as love, compassion, beauty, greed, worship, hatred, and terror that, we presume without certainty, have little to do with the structure of the material world. On the other hand, our own everyday experiences cover only a tiny fraction of the scales in space and time that we are led to...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 133-134)
  14. Organizing Committee
    (pp. 135-135)