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Huygens on Inertial Structure and Relativity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


I explain and assess here Huygens’s concept of relative motion. I show that it allows him to ground most of the Law of Inertia and also to explain rotation. Thereby his concept obviates the need for Newton’s absolute space. Thus, his account is a powerful foundation for mechanics, although not without some tension.

Research Article
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For deeply illuminating exchanges, I am greatly indebted to Nick Huggett, Katherine Brading, and Robert Rynasiewicz. For stimulating, constructive discussions, I am grateful to Alan Love, George E. Smith, Peter Distelzweig, David Marshall Miller, Ed Slowik, and Victor Boantza. For helpful feedback, I thank audiences at the University of Minnesota and the Max Planck Institute for History of Science.


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