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Reading the Masters: Newton and the Birth of Celestial Mechanics

by Bruce Pourciau

Year of Award: 1998

Publication Information: The American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 104, 1997, pp. 1-19

Summary: This paper provides a history of the discovery of the theorems that mark the beginning of "Newtonian celestial mechanics." The paper uses original sources to answer the two key questions of early celestial mechanics: (a) Every orbital motion subject to an inverse-square force lies on a conic having focus at the force center. (b) What force law  maintains a conic motion orbiting about the focus?

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About the Author: Bruce Pourciau was at Lawrence University at the time of publication.



Subject classification(s): Index | Calculus | Applied Mathematics | Mathematical Physics | Mathematics History
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, September 23, 2008