Inherent and centrifugal forces in Newton. (English) Zbl 1101.01004

During the last few years a new translation of Newton’s “Philosophia naturalis principia mathematica” [I. Newton, I. B. Cohen, J. Budenz, A. Whitman, The principia: mathematical principles of natural philosophy. Newly translated from the 3rd edition (1726) by I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman, assisted by Julia Budenz. Preceded by ‘A guide to Newton’s Principia’ by I. Bernard Cohen. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press (1999; Zbl 0961.01034)] caused a resurgence of studies about Newton’s work, style, methods and concepts. But there are still some notions where Newton’s choice look unclear and scholarly opinion is divided.
This essay tries to clarify Newton’s beliefs about the nature of “materiae vis insita” or force of inertia and “vis centrifuga” or centrifugal force. Already in two preliminary manuscripts: “De motu corporum in gyrum ” and “De motu corporum in mediis regulariter cedentibus” [The preliminary manuscripts for Isaac Newton’s 1687 Principia 1684-1686. Facsimiles of the original autographs. With an introduction by D. T. Whiteside (1989; Zbl 0684.01017)] the terms “vis insita”, “vis exercita” and “vis centrifuga” can be found. Later, in 1710 Newton again picks up his concepts in a folio sheet hand titled “Ex epistola cujusdam ad amicum”. This manuscript contains a comprehensive attack to Leibniz theories, as well as the connections between inherent and centrifugal force. The centrifugal force in orbital motion is characterized as one possible manifestation of “vis insita”, and is equal and opposite to centripetal force.


01A45 History of mathematics in the 17th century
70-03 History of mechanics of particles and systems
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