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Who derived Gauss's law for gravity

  1. Jun 3, 2012 #1
    As the title states, my question is fairly simple. It is fairly well-known that one can derive a law similar to Gauss's law (for electric fields) for gravity, which is essentially equivalent to Newton's law of universal gravitation. But what I was wondering is who actually came up with it? I suppose that it wasn't rocket science, but someone must have been the first one. I have tried to look this up, but the information on Gauss's law for gravity is not very extensive.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 3, 2012 #2

    Jano L.

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    I think it was not Newton. Gauss?
  4. Jun 3, 2012 #3
    Yeah no it wasn't Newton, as he died quite a while before Gauss's law for electrostatics was published. I suppose it was probably just Gauss himself yeah, but I'd love to find some actual references for this.
  5. Jun 4, 2012 #4


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    Coulomb's law is an inverse square law.

    The biggest hurdle, I suppose, was to find out whether Coulomb's law was in fact an inverse square law. In planetary mechanics the planets can be treated as point masses, because the distances between the planets are vast. With experiments to put Coulomb's law to the test you don't have that kind of distance, and that complicates matters.

    Still, over time scientists became confident that Coulomb's law is in fact an inverse square law. Once you're there it's trivial that any theorem that is valid voor Coulomb's law is valid for the Universal law of gravity, and vice versa.

    Most likely Gauss framed his derivation in an abstract manner, casting it as a general investigation of geometric properties of the concept of an inverse square law.
  6. Jun 4, 2012 #5
    Thank you, that is more than satisfactory!
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