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Some Factors in the Early Development of the Concepts of Power, Work and Energy*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009


Almost traditionally, it seems, accounts of the development of the concepts of work and energy have tended to describe them within the classical framework of Newtonian mechanics. They are seen as the end products of the celebrated vis-viva dispute in the eighteenth century: the outcome of a debate within the confines of the science of rational mechanics. I would like to suggest that this may be to take too narrow a view of the case. It is to project backwards our present specialist arrangement of scientific knowledge, our present divisions between the sciences, and to assume that past development was strictly guided by these divisions. And this is to make questionable historical and sociological assumptions.

Research Article
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 1967

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