5R10. Meanest Foundations and Nobler Superstructures: Hooke, Newton and the “Compounding of the Celestiall Motions of the Planetts.” Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol 229. - O Gal (Ben-Gurion Univ of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel). Kluwer Acad Publ, Dordrecht, Netherlands. 2002. 239 pp. ISBN 1-4020-0732-9. $69.00.
Reviewed by FH Lutze (Dept of Aerospace and Ocean Eng, VPI, Blacksburg VA 24061-0203).
This book explores the idea that Robert Hooke (of Hooke’s law fame) initiated the idea that celestial motions are the result of a tangential motion and an attractive motion toward a central body. The idea of choice at the time seemed to favor that the natural motion was in a circle (or closed path) and that the additional force was the “centrifugal force,” the force that tended to pull the object away from its circle. It is suggested, that Hooke’s correspondence with Sir Isaac Newton led Newton to change his way of thinking and thus subsequently led to his developing the correct model of celestial motions. Although this is the overall premise of the book, and it is primarily written to support this premise, there are many more philosophical ideas that are examined. The development of various supporting arguments for this premise is extremely interesting.
It starts out with an Introduction in which all the correspondence between Hooke and Newton (in the time frame of 1679–80) is presented. It gives a little background on the two scientists and their relationships, both working and social, between the two. The generally accepted idea that Hooke was a “mechanic” as opposed to a scientist is questioned. This introduction is followed by three historical chapters, with two philosophical “interludes” between them. Chapter 1 then describes in more detail Hooke’s development of his “Programme” and then introduces the meaning of “inflection,”—signifying the gradual curving of a rectilinear trajectory. This chapter is followed by the first “interlude” that explores some ideas regarding science and technology and the “spectator theory of knowledge.” Chapter 2 is titled, Power, and deals with Hooke’s theories of vibration and springs. However, this is all presented in the context of Hooke’s Program. This chapter is followed by another “interlude” that looks at additional philosophical ideas and opinions regarding such things as the concepts of “Knowledge of” and “Knowledge that.” All this leads to the final chapter, Newton’s Synthesis. Here, the author brings his case together and tries to answer the question “Could the road to the Principia, then, be properly described as a realization of Hooke’s Programme?”
Meanest Foundations and Nobler Superstructures: Hooke, Newton and the “Compounding of the Celestiall Motions of the Planetts” is well written and well documented. There are 12 pages of notes and over 150 cited references, many including reprints of original documents by Hooke and Newton. There are several figures reproduced from these documents in the text. There is an extensive index that indicates the locations of both subjects and authors in the text. This work is number 229 in the Boston Series in the Philosophy of Science. This reviewer mentions this fact to indicate exactly what kind of book this is; it is trying to put in perspective the influence of Hooke on Newton.