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The Physical World of Late Antiquity

The Physical World of Late Antiquity

Copyright Date: 1962
Pages: 201
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  • Book Info
    The Physical World of Late Antiquity
    Book Description:

    Sambursky describes the development of scientific conceptions and theories in the centuries following Aristotle until the close of antiquity in the sixth century A.D.

    Originally published in 1987.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5898-9
    Subjects: Physics, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)

    In the history of Greek science one has to distinguish between two parallel developments: on the one hand scientific achievements in the technical sense, comprising all the factual discoveries and inventions in mathematics, astronomy and the physical and biological sciences, and on the other hand scientific thought, aiming at the formation of comprehensive theories and the philosophical foundation of a scientific world-picture. The development of science proper, taken in the first sense, gathered momentum in a relatively short period and reached its apex in the third and second centuries B.C. From then on, it slowly declined and, with few exceptions,...

    (pp. 1-20)

    In all periods, philosophers, physicists and psychologists have shared in the analysis of space and time. Some of the greatest minds of Greek antiquity occupied themselves with these central concepts; indeed one of Aristotle’s major achievements was his raising of the level of the discussion of these concepts to consider able heights by his own contribution which is such a prominent part of hisPhysica. Aristotle’s idea of space—or rather place, as he termed it—stemmed from his concept of continuity. The whole cosmos, finite in extension and bounded by the uppermost sphere of the fixed stars, was a...

    (pp. 21-61)

    There is hardly a chapter in the history of physical thought that has greater fascination for the physicist of today than the earlier ideas on the constitution of matter and the nature of change in matter. Quantum theory gave us the first real glimpse of the essence of matter; now, some sixty years later, we feel that we are only at the beginning of a long and exciting journey. From our present vantage point we realize the extent to which attempts at an analysis of matter are bound up with profound changes in our conception of physical reality and the...

    (pp. 62-98)

    Aristotle’s laws of motion occupied a central position not only in his own physics, but also in the subsequent discussion, interpretation and criticism which took place during the entire ancient period. Their importance in antiquity compares with that of classical mechanics in modern physics; Galileo’s studies of acceleration and the laws of falling bodies inaugurated the era of modern science, while Newton’s three laws and their application to planetary motion established classical mechanics. Further, Einstein’s theory of relativity followed a renewed epistemological examination of these laws during the nineteenth century.

    In a similar way, Aristotle’s dynamics was in the first...

    (pp. 99-121)

    In the last chapter we have occasionally touched upon the difference in the approach to the explanation of phenomena between the corpuscular school and the strict continuists. Each approach was conducive in its own fashion to the progress of physical thought; both contributed to the development of scientific language, and both led to further conceptual differentiations. Some examples which pertain especially to the atomists have been given in the second chapter. This chapter will be largely devoted to a discussion of those ideas concerning the modes of physical action in general that arose in later antiquity.

    Aristotle, the continuist, continually...

    (pp. 122-153)

    In turning from sublunar to celestial physics, we must be aware of the extent to which the physics of the heavens more than any other branch of science left its mark on the period before Galileo and Kepler. It was celestial physics which gave scientific and methodical expression to the dichotomy of heaven and earth; when once established through Aristotle’s writings, this persistently and successfully survived for nearly two thousand years and was the main obstacle to the inauguration of the new scientific age. The last chapter of this book will deal with the only serious and comprehensive attempt in...

    (pp. 154-175)

    In the previous chapters John Philoponus has been mentioned on several occasions and passages from his works have been quoted. We have come to know his theory of the impetus, his interpretation of light as kinetic energy emitted from luminous bodies and moving according to the laws of geometrical optics, his elaboration of the concept of fitness, and his ingenious extension of the concept of a process ‘according to nature’ by establishing a theory of perturbation. These instances, among others, have already given ample evidence of the high originality and independence of mind of one of the most remarkable personalities...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 176-178)
    (pp. 179-180)
    (pp. 181-184)
    (pp. 185-189)