How Galileo dropped the ball and fermat picked it up

Synthese 180 (3):337-356 (2011)
This paper introduces a little-known episode in the history of physics, in which a mathematical proof by Pierre Fermat vindicated Galileo’s characterization of freefall. The first part of the paper reviews the historical context leading up to Fermat’s proof. The second part illustrates how a physical and a mathematical insight enabled Fermat’s result, and that a simple modification would satisfy any of Fermat’s critics. The result is an illustration of how a purely theoretical argument can settle an apparently empirical debate.
Keywords Foundations of physics  History of mathematics  Freefall  Acceleration  Galileo  Fermat
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References found in this work BETA
Imre Lakatos (1968). Criticism and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 69 (1):149 - 186.
Galileo Galilei & Stillman Drake (1954). Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 5 (19):253-256.
Stillman Drake (1975). Free Fall From Albert of Saxony to Honoré Fabri. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 5 (4):347-366.
Stillman Drake (1975). Impetus Theory Reappraised. Journal of the History of Ideas 36 (1):27.

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