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Scientific Revolution: Newtonian Physics - gravity waiting to be discovered?

  1. Oct 6, 2008 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    Im doing a philosophy, history and politics of science subject and the question is whether gravity was waiting to be discovered or was it an intellectual construct particular to the 17th century and Newton.

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution
    I'm reading the relevant literature that has been presented to my by my tutor, but I'm finding it hard to come to a concrete solution, mostly due to the fact I don't have a firm idea of what other scientists/physicists were doing at the time. I'm new to the whole field so I was just wondering of anyone had any ideas (not to answer the question for me) but just to give me some things to think about, any info on this period of time, peoples own personal thoughts?
    So far I can only come up with the thought that if newton had not come up with his theory that someone else might have come up with something similar but not exactly the same, and this could be due to different influences, interests and/or other facts particular to other scientists. Sorry this isn't a technical physics-specific question but I thought it would be a good place to ask. :) Thanks so much for your time :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2008 #2


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    Welcome to PF!

    Hi Kristie29! Welcome to PF! :smile:

    I think it depends what you mean by "gravity".

    Everyone knew that things are attracted to the Earth.

    And they knew that the Earth is round, so they knew that gravity acts in different directions at different latitudes … in other words, it always acts towards the centre of the Earth.

    What Newton pointed out was that the Moon … which at first sight is obviously not attracted to the Earth … is in fact continually falling, just like any terrestrial object. :smile:

    How you apply that to answering the question is up to you… :wink:
  4. Oct 6, 2008 #3
    The fact that Newton discovered gravity is a misconception.
    What Newton did was to assume that the force that attracts objects to the Earth is UNIVERSAL. It acts between any two bodies.
    The law of gravity is usually called "Newton's law of universal gravity" but the "universal" part of it is usually overlooked.
    Newton also worked out the mathematical expression of the force of gravity between two bodies.

    Note: The word "gravity" itself is much older than Newton (it was used in the middle-ages)
  5. Oct 6, 2008 #4


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    'Cause they kept falling down! Gravity was discovered just after the discovery of beer!
  6. Oct 24, 2008 #5
    Thanks so much for all your help guys it put me in the right direction! :)
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