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Look Inside The Problem of the Earth's Shape from Newton to Clairaut

The Problem of the Earth's Shape from Newton to Clairaut
The Rise of Mathematical Science in Eighteenth-Century Paris and the Fall of 'Normal' Science


  • Date Published: March 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521130998

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About the Authors
  • This book investigates, through the problem of the Earth's shape, part of the development of post-Newtonian mechanics by the Parisian scientific community during the first half of the eighteenth century. In the Principia, Newton first raised the question of the Earth's shape. John Greenberg shows how continental scholars outside France influenced efforts in Paris to solve the problem, and he also demonstrates that Parisian scholars, including Bouguer and Fontaine, did work that Alexis-Claude Clairaut used in developing his mature theory of the Earth's shape. The evolution of Parisian mechanics proved not to be the replacement of a Cartesian paradigm by a Newtonian one, a replacement that might be expected from Thomas Kuhn's formulations about scientific revolutions, but a complex process instead involving many areas of research and contributions of different kinds from the entire scientific world. Greenberg both explores the myriad of technical problems that underlie the historical development of part of post-Newtonian mechanics and embeds his technical discussion in a framework that involves social and institutional history, politics, and biography.

    • Highly technical text
    • Unique in its discoveries and analysis
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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521130998
    • length: 800 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 156 x 39 mm
    • weight: 1.1kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Isaac Newton's theory of a flattened Earth
    2. The state of the problem of the Earth's shape in the 1720s: stalemate
    3. The revival of geodesy in Paris (1733–1735)
    4. Pierre Bouguer and the theory of homogeneous figures of equilibrium (1734)
    5. Maupertuis: on the theory of the Earth's shape (1734)
    6. Alexis-Claude Clairaut's first theories of the Earth's shape
    7. Interlude I: integral calculus (1690–1741)
    8. Interlude II: the Paris academy contest on the tides (1740)
    9. Clairaut's mature theory of the Earth's shape (1741–1743): first substantial connections between the revival of mathematics in Paris and progress in mechanics there
    10. Epilogue: Fontaine's and Clairaut's advances in the partial differential calculus revisited, or the virtues of interrelated developments in mathematics and science, and the fall of 'normal' science
    Notes to chapters

  • Author

    John L. Greenberg

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