Share This Article:

Spreading Newtonian Philosophy with Instruments: The Case of Atwood’s Machine

Full-Text HTML Download Download as PDF (Size:284KB) PP. 68-81
DOI: 10.4236/ahs.2014.31007    3,846 Downloads   6,020 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

We study how the paradigm of Newton’s science, based on the organization of scientific knowledge as a series of mathematical laws, was definitively accepted in science courses—in the last decades of the XVIII century, in England as well as in the Continent—by means of the “universal” dynamical machine invented by George Atwood in late 1770s just for this purpose. The spreading of such machine, occurring well before the appearance of Atwood’s treatise where he described the novel machine and the experiments to be performed with it, is a quite interesting historical case, which we consider in some detail. In particular, we focus on the “improvement” introduced by the Italian Giuseppe Saverio Poli and the subsequent “simplifications” of the machine, underlying the ongoing change of perspective after the definitive success of Newtonianism. The case studied here allows recognizing the relevant role played by a properly devised instrument in the acceptance of a new paradigm by nonerudite scholars, in addition to the traditional ways involving erudite scientists, and thus the complementary role of machine philosophy with respect to mathematical, philosophical or even physical reasoning.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Esposito, S. & Schettino, E. (2014). Spreading Newtonian Philosophy with Instruments: The Case of Atwood’s Machine. Advances in Historical Studies, 3, 68-81. doi: 10.4236/ahs.2014.31007.

References

[1] Arouet, F.-M. (1738). Elemens de la philosophie de Newton, mis a la portée de tout le monde. Par Mr. De Voltaire. Amsterdam: Etienne Ledet.
[2] Atwood, G. (1776). A description of the experiments intended to illustrate a course of lectures on the principle of natural philosophy. London: anonymous.
[3] Atwood, G. (1784a). A treatise on the rectilinear motion and rotation of bodies with a description of original experiments relative to the subject. Cambridge: Archdeacon.
[4] Atwood, G. (1784b). An analysis of a course of lectures on the principles of natural philosophy. London: Cadell.
[5] Atwood, G. (1796). The construction and analysis of geometrical proportions determining the positions assumed by homogeneal bodies which float freely, and at rest, on a fluid’s surface. Philosophical Transactions, 86, 46-130.
[6] Atwood, G. (1798). Disquisition on stability of ships. Philosophical Transactions, 88, 201-310.
[7] Atwood, G. (1801). A dissertation on the construction and properties of arches. London: Bulmer and Co.
[8] Baillon, J. F. (2004). Early Eighteenth-Century Newtonianism: The Huguenot contribution. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A 35, 533-548.
[9] Borrelli, A. (2000). Istituzioni scientifiche, medicina e società. Biografia di Domenico Cotugno (1736-1822). Florence: Olschki.
[10] Borrelli, A. (2007). G. S. Poli e la scuola medica degli incurabili di napoli. Conference at the Università Popolare di Molfetta, November 2007.
[11] Calinger, R. S. (1969). The Newtonian-Wolffian controversy (1740- 1759). Journal of the History of Ideas, 30, 319-330.
[12] Clairaut, A. C. (1743). Théorie de la figure de la terre, tirée des principes de l’hydrostatique. Paris: Durand.
[13] Cole, E. M. (1970). Atwood, George. In C. C. Gillispie (Ed.), Dictionary of scientific biography (Vol. I). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[14] De Gennaro, G. (2006). Uno scienziato alla corte dei Barbone di Napoli: Giuseppe Saverio Poli (Molfetta 1746-Napoli 1825). Risorgimento e Mezzogiorno, 1-2, 91-95.
[15] de la Condamine, C.-M. (1751). Journal du voyage fait par ordre du Roi a l’equateur servant d’introduction historique a la mesure des trois premiers deqres du Meridien. Paris: Imprimerie Royale.
[16] de Lalande, J. J. (1769). Voyage d’un Francais en Italie, fait dans les années 1765 et 1766. Paris.
[17] Della Torre, G. M. (1748-1749). Scienza della Natura. Two Volumes, Naples. Venice: Recurti.
[18] Desaguliers, J. T. (1728). The Newtonian system of the world, the best model of government: An allegorical poem. London: Campbell.
[19] Desaguliers, J. T. (1742). A dissertation concerning electricity. London: Innys.
[20] Desaguliers, J. T. (1734 and 1744). A course of experimental philosophy (Vols. I and II). London: Innys.
[21] Feingold, M. (2004). The Newtonian moment; Isaac Newton and the making of modern culture. New York: New York Public Library.
[22] Gibbs, G. C. (1986). Huguenot contributions to the intellectual life of England, c. 1680 c. 1720, with some asides on the process of assimilation. In J. A. H. Bots, & G. H. M. Posthumus Meyjes (Eds.), La revocation de l’Edit de Nantes et les Provinces-Unies, 1685. Amsterdam, Maarssen: APA—Holland University Press.
[23] Gillispie, C. C. (1980). Science and polity in France at the end of the Old Regime. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
[24] ‘s Gravesande, W. J. (1747). Mathematical elements of natural philosophy, confirmed by experiments: or, an introduction to Sir Isaac Newton’s philosophy. Written in Latin by the late W. James ‘s Gravesande, LL.D. .... Translated into English by the late J. T. Desaguiliers, LL.D. F.R.S., London: Innys.
[25] Hall, A. R. (1972). Desaguliers, John Theophilus. In C. C. Gillispie (Ed.), Dictionary of scientific biography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[26] Hall, A. R. (1972). ‘s Gravesande, Willem Jacob. In C. C. Gillispie (Ed.), Dictionary of scientific biography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[27] Hall, A. R. (1995). All was light: An introduction to Newton’s opticks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[28] Hall, F. G. (1922). Notes on “A treatise on the rectilinear motion and rotation of bodies” by George Atwood, M. A., F. R. S. (Cambridge, 1784). The Mathematical Gazette, 11, 108-110.
[29] Hanna, B. T. (1972). Polinière and the teaching of physics at Paris: 1700-1730. In P. Gay (Ed.), Eighteenth-Century studies presented to Arthur M. Wilson. Hanover (New Hampshire): University Press of New England.
[30] Heilbron, J. L. (1981). Nollet, Jean-Antoine. In C. C. Gillispie (Ed.), Dictionary of scientific biography (Vol. X). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[31] Jacob, M. C. (1988). The cultural meaning of the scientific revolution. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
[32] Kryzhanovskii, L. N. (1991). Pieter van Musschenbroek (on the tercentenary of his birth). Soviet Physics Uspekhi, 34, 265-268.
[33] Libes, A. (1801). Traité elementaire de physique, presentée dans un ordre nouveau, d’après les decouvertes moderns. Paris: Deterville.
[34] Magellan, J. H. (1780). Description d’une machine nouvelle de dynamique, inventée par Mr. G. Atwood ... dans une lettre adressée a Monsieur A. Volta. London: Richardson.
[35] Malaquias, I. M., & Thomaz, M. F. (1994). Scientific communication in the XVIIIth century: The case of John Hyacinth de Magellan. Physis, 31, 817-834.
[36] Mariotte, E. (1718). A treatise of the motion of water, and other fluids: with the origin of fountains of springs, and the cause of winds... Written originally in French ... And translated into English, with several annotations for explaining the doubtful places, by J. T. Desaguliers. London: Campbell.
[37] McClellan III, J. E. (2003). Learned societies. In A. C. Kors (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[38] McCormmach, R. (2004). Speculative truth: Henry Cavendish, natural philosophy, and the rise of modern theoretical science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[39] Newton, I. (1704). Opticks or, a treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light. London: Innys. (Latin version, 1706, revised version, 1718).
[40] Newton, I. (1720). Traité d'optique sur les réflexions, réfractions, inflexions, et couleurs de la lumière ... Traduit de l'Anglois par M. Coste. Paris: Montalant.
[41] Newton, I. (1726). Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (3rd ed.). London: Innys.
[42] Nollet, J. A. (1743-1748). Lecons de physique experimentale. Six volumes. Paris: Durand.
[43] Palladino, F. (1985). Rend. Acc. Naz. Scienze detta dei XL, IX, 334-336.
[44] Pierson, S. (1979). Magellan, Jean-Hyacinthe. In C. C. Gillispie (Ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. IX. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[45] Poli, G. S. (1773). La formazione del tuono, delle folgore e di varie altre meteore giuste le idee del sig Franklin. Naples: Donato Campo.
[46] Poli, G. S. (1780). Breve ragionamento intorno all’eccellenza della studio della natura, e ai seri vantaggi che da quello si possono ritrarre; premesso al corso di Fisica Sperimentale, destinato a farsi nel Regia Ospedale degl'Incurabili, da Giuseppe Saverio Poli, professore di detta scienza nella regia università. Naples: Stamperia Reale.
[47] Poli, G. S. (1781a). Elementi di fisica sperimentale. Naples: Curti.
[48] Poli, G. S. (1781b). Ragionamento intorno allo studio della natura, composto, e recitato da Giuseppe Saverio Poli nell'Accademia del Battaglione Real Ferdinando, in occorrenza di dover dare ivi un corso di Fisica Sperimentale. Naples: anonymous.
[49] Schaffer, S. (1994). Machine philosophy: Demonstration devices in Georgian mechanics. Osiris, 9, 157-182. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/368735
[50] Schettino, E. (2000). Franklinists in Naples in the second half of the 18th century. In Proceedings of the XX Congresso Nazionale della Società Italiana degli Storici della Fisica e dell’Astronomia. Naples, 1-3 June, pp. 347-352.
[51] Schettino, E. (2001). L’insegnamento della fisica sperimentale a Napoli nella seconda meta del Settecento. Studi Settecenteschi, Vol. 18. Naples: Bibliopolis.
[52] Stewart, L. (1992). The rise of public science: Rhetoric, technology and natural philosophy in Newtonian Britain, 1660-1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[53] Struik, D. J. (1979). Musschenbroek, Petrus van. In C. C. Gillispie (Ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. IX. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[54] Sully, H. (1726). Description Abregee d’une Horloge d’une Nouvelle Invention, pour le Juste Mesure du Temps (pp. 9-10). Paris: Briasson.
[55] Thackray, A. (1970). Atom and powers. An essay on Newtonian matter theory and the development of chemistry. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
[56] Torrini, M. (1994). La discussione sulla scienza. In G. Pugliese (Ed.), Storia e civiltà della campania. Il settecento. Naples: Electa.
[57] Toscano, M. (2009). Gli archivi del mondo. Antiquaria, storia naturale e collezionismo nel secondo Settecento. Florence: Edifir.
[58] van Musschenbroek, P. (1734). Elementa Physicae Conscripta in Usus Academico. Leyden, Luchtmans.
[59] van Musschenbroek, P. (1745). Elementa physicae conscripta in usus academicos: qui bus nunc primum in gratiam studiosae juventutis accedunt ab alienis manibus ubique auctaria et notae, disputatio physico-historica de rerum corporearum origine, ac demum de rebus coelestibus tractatus. Venice: Recurti.
[60] van Musschenbroek, P. (1748). Institutiones Physicae Conscriptae in Usus Academicos. Leyden, Luchtmans.
[61] Venn, J. & J. A. (1922-1958). Atwood, George. In Alumni Cantabrigienses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[62] Villas-Boas, M. (2000). Joao Jacinto de Magalhaes:Um empreendedor cientifico na Europa do seculo XVIII. Aveiro: Fundacao Joao Jacinto de Magalhaes.
[63] Volta, A. (1951). Epistolario. Bologna: Zanichelli.
[64] Webster, R. S. (1986). Ramsden, Jesse. In C. C. Gillispie (Ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. XI. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[65] Westfall, R. S. (1971). Force in Newton’s physics. The science of dynamics in the seventeenth century. London: MacDonald.

  
comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2018 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.