Archive for January 2010

Newton’s Principia

In reading prefaces to various works collected in the Harvard Classics (limited edition set no. 1312, purchased by my grandfather but never read, so that I had to slit open the folded pages with a knife), I was struck by the clarity and scope of the preface to Newton’s Principia. Newton announces an explanation of “the system of the World” by deducing the planetary orbits and the terrestrial tides by calculus from his new law of gravity. Then he says he wishes he could similarly derive “the rest of the phenomena of nature” from as yet undiscovered laws of attraction and repulsion between small particles. In the last sentence quoted below he explains how he deals with what was an annoying problem for writers before TeX. Continue reading ‘Newton’s Principia’ »