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The idea of Work/Energy

  1. Dec 21, 2009 #1
    I have been trying to figure out historically how Force applied over a distance was found to be a conceptual breakthrough. I know about Joule and some others, and their thoughts on the idea of energy. But I cannot find out who or what people actually came up with the notion that Force applied over a distance was such a useful concept. Did Newton say anything about this idea being meaningful? I am looking for the historically origins of this idea and I cant find out much as far as the math goes.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2009 #2
    Definitely by the time of Helmholtz, there was an understanding that force times distance caused a change in energy.

    What actually happened (as I understand it) was that kinetic energy was the first real breakthrough. In particular, Leibiz defined "vis viva" for an object of mass m and speed v as mv^2 (without the 1/2). Leibniz said that vis viva was conserved and even postulated that friction was caused by the spreading of vis viva to random other stuff.

    It was observed by those working with heat engines etc (like Joule) that an initial amount of vis viva led to differing amounts of "work done" and I guess they found that this makes since if "work done" means force times distance.

    By the was this is a little speculative, so don't trust me too much.
  4. Dec 21, 2009 #3
    I had read about this. And a bunch of other people but it was sort of rag-tag. I was trying to find out if anyone had actually thought about Leibniz mv^2 and put that together with what Newton had already gathered. I cant find anything clear from one person, so it might be just the usual science, a whole bunch of people contributing different parts. Not like Maxwell putting it all together or Newton in a clean mathematical way.
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