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25055Re: Unread heros of Math & Physics

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  • djbroadhurst
    May 10 4:49 PM
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      --- In primenumbers@yahoogroups.com,
      "WarrenS" <warren.wds@...> wrote:

      > somewhat sadly, I've read very little by either Newton or
      > Maxwell. Recommend anything?

      I have studied Motte's translation of the Principia and was
      struck by this:

      Hitherto we have explain'd the phenomena of the heavens and
      of our sea, by the power of Gravity, but have not yet
      assign'd the cause of this power. This is certain, that it
      must proceed from a cause that penetrates to the very
      centers of the Sun and Planets, without suffering the least
      diminution of its force; that operates, not according to the
      quantity of surfaces of the particles upon which it acts,
      (as mechanical causes use to do,) but according to the
      quantity of the solid matter which they contain, and
      propagates its virtue on all sides, to immense distances,
      decreasing always in the duplicate proportion of the
      But hitherto I have not been able to discover the cause of
      those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no
      hypotheses. For whatever is not deduc'd from the phenomena,
      is to be called an hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether
      metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or
      mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy.

      Clerk Maxwell's paper:
      A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field,
      Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. 155 (1865) 459-512,
      is frankly amazing.

      > Or perhaps it is best to avoid reading them directly since
      > everything has been redone way clearer by others?

      Many people think that and are the poorer for it. Sometimes,
      it takes my breath away that the likes of Newton, Maxwell,
      Einstein, Euler and Gauss could be so prescient.

      I do not include any of the multitude of parents of quantum
      theory (Bohr, Schroedinger, Heisenberg, Dirac, Tomonaga,
      Schwinger, Feynman, Dyson) in my list of top 3 physicists.
      Nor would any of them dare to do so. Quantum mechanics and
      quantum field theory were corporate creations.

      To Newton, Maxwell and Einstein belongs the almost sole
      glory of capturing the essentials of mechanics,
      electromagnetism and relativity, respectively, in a handful
      of ideas and equations of great power and persuasiveness.

      On the other hand, quantum theory grew, fitfully and
      confusedly, out of the puzzlings of many persons.
      Of these, Dirac came the closest to emulating Newton,
      Maxwell and Einstein. Though even Dirac might have
      shuddered at that comparison.

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