For long it has been accepted that Kepler ’proved’ three empirical laws of planetary motion, and that Newton depended upon these in ’establishing’ his law of universal gravitation. As Professor Wilson demonstrates, the truth is more complicated - but more interesting. The question of observational evidence therefore forms the theme of this volume. The first articles trace the evolution of Kepler’s ideas and reconstruct the steps in his journey. Their conclusion is that observational error inevitably prevented any satisfactory direct verification of Kepler’s first law so, as Kepler himself recognised, his results rested upon hypothesis. The final articles present a similar study of Newton’s thoughts on gravitation and planetary motion: again, as Newton left it, the theory he propounded can be considered no more or less than a hypothesis. In between Professor Wilson examines the attitudes of mid-17th-century astronomers to Kepler’s ideas, and in particular, the achievements of Jeremiah Horrocks: he died in 1640, at the age of only twenty-two, but his improvements in Keplerian astronomy were of great importance for Newton’s future work.
Contents: Preface; Kepler’s derivation of the elliptical path; How did Kepler discover his first two laws?; The error in Kepler’s acronychal data for Mars; The inner planets and the Keplerian revolution; Newton and some philosphers on Kepler’s laws; Horrocks, harmonies and the exactitude of Kepler’s third law; On the origin of Horrock’s lunar theory; From Kepler’s laws, so-called, to universal gravitation: empirical factors; Newton and the EÃ¶tvÃ¶s experiment; Corrigenda et addenda; Index.
The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.
The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.
Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource.
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