- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Green Lion Press (July 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1888009322
- ISBN-13: 978-1888009323
- Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.8 x 10.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mechanics from Aristotle to Einstein
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About the Author
Michael J. Crowe is Cavanaugh Professor Emeritus in the Program of Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Mechanics from Aristotle to Einstein was developed and refined over many years of teaching undergraduates, both within and outside the Program. Previous books by Professor Crowe include A History of Vector Calculus, Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution, Modern Theories of the Universe from Herschel to Hubble, Calendar of the Correspondence of Sir John Herschel, and The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750-1900: The Idea of a Plurality of Worlds from Kant to Lowell.
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Top Customer Reviews
He derives his first theme from the competing definitions of mechanics: (a) motion or (b) machinery. Chapter 1 pronounces "motion, speed, acceleration, distance, and time" the "key questions" in the history of mechanics. These "key questions" are carried through the book, if not with the explicit consistency that a non-specialist would like. In the course of explaining how Aristotle, Galileo, Descartes, Newton and Einstein answered these questions, Crowe makes the discovery of uniformity, inertia, and relativity emerges. Galileo and Newton get more attention than others.
He derives his second theme from Whitehead's judgment that the laws of motion are the "greatest single intellectual success which mankind has achieved" (Science and the Modern World, 1925). Crowe portrays the interplay of (a) hypothesis and (b) deduction in the works of the physicists. He does this without engaging in artificial debates over empiricism or idealism. Crowe shows how knowledge emerged in step with the emergence of physics as a cultural system differentiating from other disciplines.
Very readable exposition, pertinent diagrams, original texts with Crowe's commentaries, thought experiments, problem exercises, and brief biographies suit the book to educated general readers, students in general, and to students of physics.
Motion and method are rather like shorthand for the difference between culture as symbols and culture as social systems.
The book is organized chronologically as follows:
1. Mechanics before Galileo
2. Galileo and Terrestrial Mechanics
3. From Galileo to Newton [covering Gilbert, Kepler, Descartes, and Huygens]
4. Newton and Mechanics
5. Between Newton and Einstein
6. Einstein and Relativity Theory
One of the real strengths of this book is to trace the development of the concept of `relativity,' by presenting evidence that the notion that the mechanics of motion are relative to an observer was not Einstein's exclusive discovery, but in fact was pondered by others going back to Descartes and even Aristotle.
Another valuable addition to the reader's understanding of the materials presented in `Mechanics' is the inclusion of the `Galileo Laboratory' at the end of the book--a chance for the reader to repeat some of Galileo's experiments.
Now a quick comment on another Amazon reviewer's review of this book, which claimed that Crowe's `Mechanics' cannot be taken seriously as a history of mechanics. Such a claim misses the point. This book is not, at least in the narrative sense, an exhaustive history of mechanics. Instead, it is a historically-based primer on the development of mechanics using primary sources from the ancient Greeks to Einstein, focusing only on key developments. Certainly more could have been added if the author had been so inclined. But that was not the goal. Crowe's `Mechanics' is intentionally pedagogical, the result of years of teaching the subject and distilling down the most useful aspects for students of all ages--in the tradition of a great books program at one of Americas finest universities. From that perspective, 'Mechanics from Aristotle to Einstein' can and should be taken seriously as one of the best introductions to the development of mechanics available.
Finally, this book was written for the amateur, not the expert with mastery of mechanics and relativity (although certainly an expert with an open mind could find this book enjoyable if for no other reason than the author's evident historical sensibilities and scholarship). The liberal use of quotations from primary sources and the useful commentary are there to facilitate the reader who has little or no background in this subject, not necessarily the reader who is already in strong command of the material. But having both the primary source material, as well as the author's very useful commentary, makes `Mechanics from Aristotle to Einstein' a superb and accessible introduction to the historical development of "the science of moving bodies and their interactions."