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.