Almagest 4 (2):86-21 (2013)

Raffaele Pisano
Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille
One may discuss the role played by mechanical science in the history of scientific ideas, particularly in physics, focusing on the significance of the relationship between physics and mathematics in describing mathematical laws in the context of a scientific theory. In the second Newtonian law of motion, space and time are crucial physical magnitudes in mechanics, but they are also mathematical magnitudes as involved in derivative operations. Above all, if we fail to acknowledge their mathematical meaning, we fail to comprehend the whole Newtonian mechanical apparatus. For instance, let us think about velocity and acceleration. In this case, the approach to conceive and define foundational mechanical objects and their mathematical interpretations changes. Generally speaking, one could prioritize mathematical solutions for Lagrange’s equations, rather than the crucial role played by collisions and geometric motion in Lazare Carnot’s operative mechanics, or Faraday’s experimental science with respect to Ampère’s mechanical approach in the electric current domain, or physico-mathematical choices in Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory. In this paper, we will focus on the historical emergence of mechanical science from a physico-mathematical standpoint and emphasize significant similarities and/or differences in mathematical approaches by some key authors of the 18th century. Attention is paid to the role of mathematical interpretation for physical objects.
Keywords Physics  Mathematics  History of science
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