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The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy Paperback – 1 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 466 pages
  • Publisher: (1 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607962403
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607962403
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 446,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

I. Bernard Cohen (1914-2003) was Victor S. Thomas Professor (Emeritus) of the History of Science at Harvard University. Among his recent books are "Benjamin Franklin's Science" (1996), "Interactions" (1994), and "Science and the Founding Fathers" (1992). Anne Whitman was coeditor (with I. Bernard Cohen and Alexander Koyre) of the Latin edition, with variant readings, of the "Principia" (1972). Julia Budenz, author of "From the Gardens of Flora Baum" (1984), is a multilingual classicist and poet.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The text in this book looks like it was scanned or photocopied, letters on the same page change size, some are much darker than others and characters have run together in a few places.
A modern printed version would be a more pleasant read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It will be a year or three before I manage to read and understand the contents in detail - my BSc Maths/Physics is proving a bit rusty - but just to own a copy of such a momentous book is enough for now
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Format: Paperback
Isaac Newton was a genius and after studying his work and his letters, I can only conclude that the man was ahead of his time. Newton didn't just "discover" gravity, he understood all the mechanisms behind it and detailed them all. His research is still used for astronomy and astrophysics outlining the general importance of it. It's due to Newton's work that we are able to build planes that fly because we understand the fundamental interactions of gravity. For this reason I believe Newton is one of the greatest and most influential scientists in our history next to Albert Einstein, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, Max Planck, William Thomson Kelvin and the discoverers of DNA (Francis Crick, James Watson, Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins).

The principles by Newton describe and detail fundamental forces and interactions observable all around us. These include acceleration, deceleration, motions, motions of celestial bodies and inertial movement. Oh and did I mention that the man invented calculus? Newton wasn't just a brilliant scientist but a brilliant mathematician.

The principia is divided into three volumes:

Volume I - The Motion of Bodies
Volume II - (Same title as first)
Volume III - The System of the World


Just some quotes from the Principia:

Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 51 reviews
328 of 337 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars BEWARE: The Snowball Publishing Edition is NOT the Cohen Edition! 18 May 2010
By Kevin T. Keith - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The explanatory material, publishers's notes, and most of the reviews above all refer to the Bernard Cohen translation and commentary (UC Berkeley Press, blue cover) - but they are attached to the Amazon listing for the Snowball Publishing edition (brownish cover), which is not the same thing at all!!

The entry for the Snowball edition - listed on Amazon discount for about $13 - clearly states that it is the Cohen translation with his commentaries. In fact, it is merely a cheap reproduction of some earlier edition of the standard Motte translation, with modernized spelling. It is the complete text of the (translated) Third Edition of the Principia, but with no other associated works by Newton and nothing by Cohen. Snowball does not even give the translator's name, either on the cover or in the front matter! The lithographic reproduction is readable but poor quality - with many broken characters and even edges of pages slightly cut off. This is a usable cheap edition of the well-known 1729 translation, but it is NOT the modern translation, as the Amazon listing explicitly states. (In fact, Amazon's "Search Inside This Book" feature, from the Snowball edition page, takes you to the search pages for the Cohen edition - a completely different, and much more expensive, book!)

I'm sure this was a good-faith error on Amazon's part, but it is completely misleading. Buyers should know what they are getting. If you are reading this on the page listing for the Snowball Publishing edition of the Principia, you aren't getting what they say you are. Be forewarned.
192 of 207 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you don't "get" math, read this book 28 Aug. 2001
By A.W. Ellermann - Published on
Format: Paperback
Hi, folks. I suffered through college math all the way through differential equations, and I never really "got" it. I just memorized the steps and, when exam time rolled around, hoped I could remember which procedure went with which problem. The light finally came on in grad school, and _Principia_ was the switch. Reading the _Principia_ let me get underneath formal calculus and imbued it with a sense of wonder and soul. To see the theory set out step-by-step, to follow with Newton as he envisioned a new way of painting the world, gave me the ability to internalize the calculus, to say, finally, "Yes, that's intuitively right." I wish I'd read the _Principia_ much earlier in my education. It would have saved me a lot of pain.
58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a masterpiece of Science, not a textbook! 13 Nov. 2000
By C. Morales - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've seen bad reviews for master works of science in the past. Mostly they claim these books are either not clear or impossible to understand. Don't buy this book for the purpose of learning Classical Mechanics or Calculus from it, but for the scientific curiosity of learning how the great Isaac Newton presented his revolutionary scientific ideas to the world. Of course, it is difficult to read. This is a translation of a book written in Latin more than 300 years ago!
This book is a jewel. Just like the original works of Einstein, Maxwell, Heisenberg, Schroedinger and all those giants. Many of the ideas presented in the book were written for the first time in history and probably they are not organized in a didactic form. The person buying this book should not expect to find a clear textbook when originally it was not written for the layman, but for the expert scientific community of its time. Buy this book, sit back, scan through it, and enjoy a true piece of history.
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A time of Science and Philosophy together 6 July 2008
By Kenneth Ellman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
From Kenneth Ellman, Newton, New Jersey 07860,
"I hope that, decades from now, when I and my other books have been forgotten, this will still be useful to scholars and students". So spoke Harvard University Professor I. Bernard Cohen some years before his death in 2003. His co-translator Anne Whitman had died in 1984. The translation and the extraordinary commentary is 974 pages long and took 15 years to complete. I have had this edition for many years and in reading it again I decided to write this review. I feel grateful to Cohen and Whitman for what they accomplished.

This particular edition by Cohen and Whitman of The Principia stands alone (as far as I know) in making one feel that a teacher, guide, and historian are holding your hand while exploring and understanding one of the most dramatic and powerful scientific and mathematical treatise ever written. I am surprised at some of the reviews here in that they seem to discuss the applicability or utilization of The Principia as a Physics or Math textbook. This is certainly not a textbook in the modern sense in any respect. This is not a book you would use to prepare for any normal Physics or Math examination. It must be kept in mind that this book by Newton was a human accomplishment and this particular edition with its extensive commentary by Cohen lets one be exposed to both the scientific rigor and social aspects of the world of Isaac Newton. And due to the fact of Newton's extraordinary scientific and mathematical accomplishment it caused historical alteration in the course of human events as does each great expansion of human knowledge. Sometimes when mathematical expressions and concepts of Physics are portrayed we forget that the ideas are first and foremost a human experience, it is not some distant and inscrutable theory but part of our most intimate life. We try to understand what we are and where we are. In the days of Isaac Newton Natural Philosophy was thought of as an expression and search for the truth and mathematics was sometimes able to be the handmaiden of this exploration. Unfortunately, from my point of view, philosophy has become detached from much of mathematics and this has done a disservice to both Physics, Math and what is currently thought of as Philosophy. I see no advantage in this current day separation and when immersing yourself in this edition of The Principia, there is a longing for those days now past when there was a unification of science and philosophy.
There is little reason in this review to explain the significance both mathematically and historically of the writing of Isaac Newton. Whether a student is using a conventional Physics textbook to master the understanding, laws and calculations described in The Principia or is exercising physics problems to show facility and prepare for an examination, each and every aspiring learner is obligated to master the ideas and knowledge as expressed in The Principia one way or another. Certainly our current day Physics textbooks do not teach as Isaac Newton taught and wrote. The Principia is not a book normally used to prepare for any Physics examination whether in High School or University. But the law of science and math as expressed in The Principia is as valid in general application today as it was in 1729. Our understanding of the laws of Newton as they relate to later discovered equations and expressions, including Relativity, does alters our knowledge of applicability of Newtonian physics. It does show the limitations of our belief in the immutable Laws of Nature, including those mathematical laws. In some respects radically so. So, it really depends upon the demands you put upon the math and knowledge as expressed in The Principia. Do not read Isaac Newton in the light of Albert Einstein and others. First read Newton in the light of his age, then step back and remember how we have continued along this amazing path to knowledge. So The Principia is another place in our human endeavor. This is not just a book for mathematicians. As related on pages 297 and 298 that wonderful contemporary of Newton, John Locke, without benefit of full mathematical understanding was still able to comprehend the ideas within. So will you. This is by far the best edition of The Principia I have ever read. Kenneth Ellman, Box 18, Newton, New Jersey 07860 ,
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful overview, somewhat overwhelming. 7 Sept. 2004
By V. K. Lin - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful reference, but frankly, it was overwhelming for me. Let's just say that while the first two sections of this book were clear, informative, meticulously and thoroughly footnoted and annotated, the last section-- the actual translation-- proved beyond my abilities. I'd HIGHLY recommend a college-level geometry course before attempting to read the actual translation of Newton's revolutionary work.

Frankly, the combination of archaic verbiage (Cohen kept a number of obsolescent terms in translating from the original Latin), combined with a predominately narrative style (reading in an entire paragraph what can in modern mathematical symbology be articulated in a single line) combined with my lack of working analytic geometry enabled me to follow this seminal work conceptually, but not in detail. Other reviwers have suggested that a working knowledge of calculus and Newtonian physics is required. I disagree. To follow Newton's proofs in detail, it is Euclidean geometry that is required. Newton's Principia CONCEPTUALLY utilizes calculus, but the proofs themselves are Euclidean with the concept of "infinitisimally small" added to the equation. I have single- and multi-variable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations (first-, second-order, and partial), and graduate-level statistics under my belt. Junior high school geometry is insufficient to understand his work. So far, I am studying tensors, differential geometry/exterior calculus with respect to gravitation physics without too much difficuly. Geometry!

Otherwise, this book was wonderful. Section One is a thoroughly researched historical background. Social setting, scientific thought at the time, the controversies of the times, historical perspective, insights into Newton himself. Wonderfully referenced and annotated.

Section Two is a clear "How to Read" section-- discussing section by section of the Principia what the main concepts and issues are, even critiquing Newton's flaws and obvious attempts to fill in gaps or alter data when existing data were insufficient to his theories! Cohen even guides us step-by-step through some of the more important proofs in the Principia-- proofs that for the most part I followed, except for certain geometric assumptions that I had to assume were true.

My fascination has always been relativity... which I am working on understanding now. When finished, I may read a college-level text in analytic geometry, then come back to this. But I was impressed by the sheer breadth of conceptual material Newton covered. Certainly entitling his last book of The Principia "The System of the World" was justified.
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