Mathematics and Mechanics in the Paris Academy of Sciences

in The Man Who Flattened the Earth

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226793603
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226793627 | DOI:
Mathematics and Mechanics in the Paris Academy of Sciences

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This chaptetr looks at the logical and conceptual problems associated with manipulating infinitesimals. Mathematicians exploited the power of algebraic notation to solve problems analytically, without attempting Euclidean synthetic proofs. Scholarly journals published the solutions alongside the empirical results of chemists, astronomers, and anatomists. The posing and solving of new variants of geometrical and mechanical problems were analogous to the collection of observational and experimental data; mathematicians used their techniques as instruments for obtaining results, often with the goal of increasing elegance or generality. This chapter shows how Maupertuis used his connection with Bernoulli, not only to secure a place in the Paris Academy, but also to acquire the skills necessary to read Newton's Principia. This led him into the problem of the shape of the earth, where his efforts were in part inspired by the possibility of making Newton intelligible to his French colleagues.

Keywords: mathematics; sciences; Paris academy; geometrical problems; Bernoulli

Chapter.  26721 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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