Euler, Vis Viva, And Equilibrium

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (2):120-127 (2010)
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Abstract

Euler’s ‘On the force of percussion and its true measure’, published in 1746, shows that not only had the issue of vis viva not been settled, but that the concepts of inertia and even force were still very much up for grabs. This paper details Euler’s treatment of the vis viva problem. Within those details we find differences between his physics and that of Newton, in particular the rejection of empty space and reduction of all forces to the operation of inertia through contact. One can further see how Euler’s philosophy of science embraced explanation through mechanisms and equilibrium conditions.Keywords: Leonhard Euler; Vis viva; Equlibrium; Mechanics; Eighteenth century.

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Brian Hepburn
Wichita State University