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One of the most influential books in science, a must have for anyone studying physics or the history of science
on 21 August 2013
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:
"...now we might add something concerning a certain most subtle spirit which pervades and lies hid in all gross bodies; by the force and action of which spirit the particles of bodies attract one another at near distances, and cohere, if contiguous; and electric bodies operate to greater distances, as well repelling as attracting the neighboring corpuscles; and light is emitted, reflected, refracted, inflected, and heats bodies; and all sensation is excited, and the members of animal bodies move at the command of the will, namely, by the vibrations of this spirit, mutually propagated along the solid filaments of the nerves, from the outward organs of sense to the brain, and from the brain into the muscles. But these are things that cannot be explained in a few words, nor are we furnished with that sufficiency of experiments which is required to an accurate determination and demonstration of the laws by which this electric and elastic spirit operates."
(In the last paragraph Newton is describing how the brain works and sends signals to the muscles and nerves. Even on a subject totally unrelated to the principles, Newton displays impressive knowledge)
"Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being, necessarily existing."
(I needed to quote this of all things especially with the influx of atheists on the internet arguing that science and belief are incompatible. I believe this statement here not only argues for the logical necessity of a creator but does away with atheism. Yes, next to being a mathematician and scientist, Isaac Newton was also an amazing theologian unmatched in his time)
Just by reading these short paragraphs you can see what an intellectually bright man Newton was. The way he writes is almost like poetry and yet he retains to teach you in every sentence how the world and the universe functions. The man was an amazing scientist, mathematician and theologian. If you're fascinated by science (or the history of science itself) or just want to understand the motions of the world and universe from the man who first "discovered" and detailed them, then this is a must have.
It's a massive read though so be warned. The good thing though is that you can always just flip it open and always find something interesting to read. However I recommend a thorough read which is what this book deserves.
(In terms of the printing itself for this edition: as another reviewer pointed out, it's simply been photo-copied so the quality is poor although very readable. For the price though, I have no complaint)
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