Gravity and Gravitation (Encyclopedia of Science)
Gravity is the force of attraction between any two objects in the universe. That force depends on two factors: the mass of each object and the distance between them.
The story behind English physicist Isaac Newton's (1642727) discovery of the gravitational force is one of the most fascinating in all of science. It begins in ancient Greece in the period from the sixth to the third century B.C. During that time, a number of Greek philosophers attempted to explain common observations from the natural worlduch as the fact that most objects fall to the ground if they are not held up in some way.
Aristotle. Among the explanations developed for this tendency was one offered by Greek philosopher Aristotle (38422 B.C.). Aristotle developed a grand scheme of natural philosophy stating that all objects "belonged" in one place or another. Heat belonged in the atmosphere because it originally came from the Sun (as Aristotle taught). For that reason, heat rises. Objects fall toward Earth's surface, Aristotle said, because that's where "earthy" objects belong. Aristotle's philosophy was an attempt to explain why objects fall.
Galileo and Newton. Aristotle's philosophy dominated the thinking of European scholars for nearly 2,000 years. Then, in the sixteenth century, Italian physicist Galileo Galilei...
(The entire section is 1550 words.)
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