Videnskabshistorisk Selskab

Indbydelse til foredrag ved:

Professor Judith V. Grabiner,
Pitzer College, California:

Maclaurin and Newton: The Newtonian Style and the Authority of Mathematics.

Tirsdag, den 9. marts 2004, kl. ca. 20
i auditorium 10 på H. C. Ørsted Instituttet,
Universitetsparken 5, København


Colin Maclaurin (1698-1746) was Newton's most prominent Scottish follower. From his refutation of Berkeley's attack on Newton's calculus to the gravitational theory of the shape of the earth, Maclaurin based his mathematical work on Newton's. He also owed some of his early success in publication and in job-hunting to Newton's patronage. But more important, Maclaurin worked using what I. B. Cohen has called "the Newtonian style". This style, which involves a particular relationship between sophisticated mathematical modeling and empirical data, was responsible not only for Maclaurin's scientific successes but for his ability to solve problems on other subjects, ranging from taxation to insurance (not to mention theology). His diverse successes strengthened his authority as a natural philosopher, the prestige of Newtonianism, and the authority of mathematics in the Enlightenment. And the success of this style suggests an alternative to the purely analytic approach to physics of eighteenth-century Continental mathematicians.

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