Essay about Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia and the Royal Society

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The publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica is widely considered an extraordinary event in the history of science. In the Principia, Newton introduced a system of mechanical explanation of the world that revolutionized physics. Of particular importance in the Principia was Newton’s mathematical demonstration of the existence of the force of gravity, which he demonstrated to be at work in a wide range of phenomena. But as revolutionary as Newton’s discovery and demonstration was, the Principia also represented a revolution in the goals of science. Newton’s Principia helped to shift the course of science from an effort to “find first causes” into an attempt to “establish a set of principles … to predict and to retrodict the…show more content…
The most fundamental impact of the existence of the Royal Society on the trajectory of scientific inquiry was its fostering of a community of scientific intellectuals. The Royal Society provided a journal for publishing scientific works (the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society), a prestigious title for its elected “Fellows,” and even salaried jobs for its officers. With this support for the work of intellectuals dedicated to science, the Royal Society promoted a network of individuals with which those with new ideas could cooperate, correspond, and debate. This function of the Royal Society deeply impacted both the creation and the dissemination of Isaac Newton’s ideas. Indeed, before the Principia, Newton was reluctant to publish his mathematical or scientific works, opting instead to perfect and disseminate his discoveries by corresponding with other intellectuals. It was the Royal Society’s creation of a community of intellectuals that allowed for this process to occur: most of Newton’s correspondents were either direct employees or elected Fellows of the Royal Society, such as Henry Oldenburg, Edmond Halley, John Craig, John Collins, and others. Further, even when unpublished, many of Newton’s manuscripts were deposited at the library Royal Society in London for others to read and learn from. This network of individuals in a focused scientific community would prove an invaluable resource for Newton in

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