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Eighteenth-Century Conceptions of Gravitation

  • Frans van Lunteren
Chapter
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 136)

Abstract

Newton’s theory of gravitation was built upon the foundations of the mechanical philosophy. It also seriously affected those foundations. To neutral, passive, solid matter, Newton added a foreign element — the mutual attraction of every pair of material particles in the universe. In general, those who accepted the theory were in no hurry to reconcile the apparent activity bestowed on matter with the received view. Most followed Newton’s claim of agnosticism. They denied the need and usefulness of any theoretical investigation into the cause of gravitation, or appealed to God’s omnipotence. This stance was not, however, universal. In Britain, Newton’s speculations concerning the ether inspired some to place the seat of the activity in non-mechanical ethers rather than in matter. Others, appealing to Biblical authority, invoked a non-Newtonian plenal fluid, acting through contact. On the continent, the lingering influence of the mechanical philosophy also resulted in a number of attempts to explain gravitation by means of an ether.

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Repulsive Force Mechanical Explanation Celestial Body Centripetal Force 
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Notes

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • Frans van Lunteren

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