Syllabus [SciRev Fall 2008]

For the Week of 11/19/08

Assignment 12

Plate from BoscovichÕs Theoria Philosophiae Naturalis (1758), showing various versions of his force curve.


Post Newton

Read in WestfallÕs Life of Isaac Newton, pp. 191 to the end.  Try to get to about p. 272 for this week, and finish it up over break.


Read this article by Wilson Scott:  Scott,Wilson-Significance_of_Hardbodies-436MB.pdf.


Read this article by Hall/Boas: Hall-Boas_NewtonElectricSpirit-412KB.pdf


Read pp. 53-80 (and the rest if you are interested) from L. P. WilliamÕs biography of Faraday:  Williams-Faraday-ch2.PDF.  You may want to consult with a few wiki articles as you read this just to fill in any blanks you might have. This is an excellent book and I highly recommend the whole thing to any of you with an interest in early electrical theory.

    A little background for this reading: Roger Boscovich, a Serbo-Croatian Jesuit priest who lived in Italy and France for most of his adult life, took up many of NewtonÕs Queries, especially Q31 which we read last time.  He sort of combines Leibniz with Newton and comes up with a theory of cohesion and heat vibrations and something that superficially appears to be electron orbital levels and DeBroglie waves and Leonard-Jones potentials.  But this is reading way more into him than he could have ever dreamed, but at the same time you do have to wonder what got these guys going on such crazy, but fertile, ideas.  So far as I know, the church never got in his way.  He was the church.


Read selections from this PDF, which has a few passages from BoscovichÕs Philosophi¾ Naturalis Theoria (Theory of Natural Philosophy), usually just called, Theoria. 

The first edition was printed in 1758 and the second (the one from which this translation was done) from 1763.


Read ÒPart IÓ  (PDF pages 4-5), 

ÒPart IIIÓ (PDF pages 7-8),

PDF pages 8-10, and

PDF page 11.

Click on the thumbnail below for a .jpg of Figure 1, the image discussed on PDF page 10:



Consider the graph below and respond to the questions posed.



Write:  At this point you all should know how to approach these writing assignments.  Souped up materials are below.  Cite sources. 


A little extra credit: Compare BoscovichÕs theory of point force with the Lennard-Jones force.  Get philosophical.  Try to tease out how the two are the same or differentÉ not just the specific numbers, but in approach.


Short Bibliography and souped up sources. (The previous Newtonian optional articles are also appropriate for this week)



Adler, Carl G. "Why Is Mechanics Based on Acceleration?" Philosophy of Science 47, no. 1 (1980): 146-152. Adler-Why_Is_Mechanics_Based_on_Acceleration-168KB.pdf

       -The unique role of the second derivative of position with respect to time in classical mechanics is investigated. It is indicated that mechanics might have been developed around other order derivatives.


Boscovich, Ruggero Giuseppe. A Theory of Natural Philosophy. Translated by J. M. Child. English ed. Cambridge, Mass.,: M. I. T. Press, 1966. Here are two more sections:  Boscovich_MindOfGod-1.5MB.pdf and/or  Boscovich_OnSpaceAndTime-1.1MB.pdf


Boscovich, Ruggero Giuseppe, and Karl Scherffer. Philosophi¾ Naturalis Theoria Redacta Ad Unicam Legem Virium in Natura Existentium. Prostat Vienn¾ Austri¾: In officina Libraria Kaliwodiana, 1758.  The image at the top of this site is from this.


Disalle, Robert. "Newton's Philosophical Analysis of Space and Time." In The Cambridge Companion to Newton, ed. I. Bernard Cohen and George E. Smith, pp. 33-56. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. This article has some thoughts on NewtonÕs famous ÒbucketÓ argument and absolute space. Disalle_CambridgeNewton_Space-time-2.8MB.pdf


Feingold, Mordechai. The Newtonian Moment : Isaac Newton and the Making of Modern Culture. New York: New York Public Library, 2004. This is a chapter about how women were involved with the Newtonian revolution.  Feingold_NewtonianWomen-3.4MB.pdf


Hall, A. Rupert, and Marie Boas Hall. "Newton's Theory of Matter." Isis 51, no. 2 (1960): 131-144. Hall-Boas_NewtonMatterTheory-1.8MB.pdf


Hall, A. Rupert, and A. D. C. Simpson. "An Account of the Royal Society's Newton Telescope." Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 50, no. 1 (1996): 1-11.  Hall-Simpson-Account_of_RS_Newton_Telescope-596KB.pdf


Hall, Marie Boas, and A. Rupert Hall. "Newton's Electric Spirit: Four Oddities." Isis 50, no. 4 (1959): 473-476. Hall-Boas_NewtonElectricSpirit-412KB.pdf


Hutchison, Keith. "Is Classical Mechanics Really Time-Reversible and Deterministic?" The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44, no. 2 (1993): 307-323. Hutchison-Is_Classical_Mechanics_Time-Reversible-1.8MB.pdf


Kargon, Robert. "Walter Charleton, Robert Boyle, and the Acceptance of Epicurean Atomism." Isis 55, no. 2 (1964): pp. 184-192. Kargon_Charleton,Boyle,EpicureanAtomism-1.1MB.pdf


Agassi, Joseph. "Leibniz's Place in the History of Physics." Journal of the History of Ideas 30, no. 3 (1969): 331-344. Agassi-Leibniz_Place_History_Phsics-1.4MB.pdf


Newsome, Daniel. "Desegregations of Mechanics: Identical and Coincidental Motions in Quantum Mechanics." Bard College Senior Thesis for Physics Degree, 2001.  NewsomeDesegMechs-6.4MB.pdf  There is a section in this on Boscovichian theory as it could be applied to quantum mechanics and an appendix or two which discuss some issues of classical mechanics.  Get rid of all those pompous quotations at the beginnings of chapters, and it isnÕt too bad, just really dense.


Newsome, Daniel. "The Reception of the Theory of Boscovich in the British Isles: 1760-1850." 44, 2003. Newsome-Boscovich_Reception-draft-1MB.pdf.  This paper was never really fully revised.  There is some good stuff on the Priestley-Boscovich argument on the materiality of the soul, but there are some real clunkers in this one. 


Sabra, A. I. Theories of Light: From Descartes to Newton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Reprint, 1967 first ed.  This is chapter 5 on FermatÕs Principle of Least Time which I waved my hands at in the last class. Sabra_Ch5_FermatLeastTime_Theories_of_Light-3.2MB.pdf


Scott, Wilson L. "The Significance Of "Hard Bodies" In the History of Scientific Thought." Isis 50, no. 3 (1959): 199-210. Scott,Wilson-Significance_of_Hardbodies-436MB.pdf


Westfall, Richard S. The Life of Isaac Newton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.


Williams, L. Pearce. Michael Faraday, a Biography. New York,: Basic Books, 1965. Williams-Faraday-ch2.PDF


Zinsser, Judith P. "Translating Newton's 'Principia': The Marquise Du Chatelet's Revisions and Additions for a French Audience." Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 55, no. 2 (2001): 227-245.  Zinsser-Translating_Newtons_Principia_Chatelet-1MB.pdf

          -In the 1740s, the Marquise du Chatelet (VoltaireÕs lover) translated Newton's Principia (1731, third edition) into French. Hers remains the standard translation. In addition, she wrote an extensive commentary in which she gave her own description of the System of the World, and analytical solutions to key disputed aspects of Newton's theory of universal gravitation. She also included summaries of two mathematical essays that clarified and confirmed Newton's application of his theory to observed phenomena: Alexis-Claude Clairaut's on the shape of the Earth and Daniel Bernoulli's on the effects of the Sun and Moon on the tides.




Back to Syllabus [SciRev Fall 2008]


Me –

Extra Credit: Come up with an algebraic formula which qualitatively does what BoscovichÕs curve does and explain it and make a graph of it.

E.g. y = f(r)

IÕm guessing it will be a seventh degree equationÉ it will have an r7 in it.

Review Materials:


Here is a PDF with my messy notes on the readings from this week and some other materials on electricityÉ



Posted: 12/6/08 5:18 PM