Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
One of the most influential books in history is Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia. Published in 1687, the book immediately led to intellectual controversy among the scientists and philosophers of the day, including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Robert Hooke, and John Flamsteed, who felt it necessary to argue with many of the propositions and conclusions Newton advances. These arguments give at least as much testimony to the importance of Principia as they undermine its theories. Newton’s book remained the principal document in the field of physics for two hundred years.
Newton’s work in physics has never been supplanted or debunked; relativity and other discoveries of the twentieth century are modifications and additions to his scientific discoveries rather than replacements. The philosophical implications of relativity and other discoveries of the twentieth century, however, are radically different from the philosophical implications of Newton’s discoveries. During the eighteenth century and after, Newton’s masterpiece also was a highly revered work of philosophy. Newton became one of the most honored figures in Western culture, one of the first formulators of scientific method, and the person whose work formed the basis for scientific study and application of principles. Physics, as a field of theory and knowledge, did not exist before Newton’s work.
Newton’s preface to the Principia announces that he is...
(The entire section is 1650 words.)
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