One of the most disputed controversy over the priority of scientific discoveries is that of the law of universal gravitation, between Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke. Hooke accused Newton of plagiarism, of taking over his ideas expressed in previous works. In this paper I try to show, on the basis of previous analysis, that both scientists were wrong: Robert Hooke because his theory was basically only ideas that would never have materialized without Isaac Newton’s mathematical support; and the latter was wrong by not recognizing Hooke’s ideas in drawing up the theory of gravity. Moreover, after Hooke’s death and taking over the Royal Society presidency, Newton removed from the institution any trace of the former president Robert Hooke. For this, I detail the accusations and arguments of each of the parts, and how this dispute was perceived by the contemporaries of the two scientists. I finish the paper with the conclusions drawn from the contents.
Keywords: Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, law of gravity, priority, plagiarism
Robert Hooke’s contribution to the law of universal gravitation
Isaac Newton’s contribution to the law of universal gravitation
Robert Hooke’s claim of his priority on the law of universal gravitation
The controversy in the opinion of other contemporary scientists
What the supporters of Isaac Newton say
What the supporters of Robert Hooke say
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Isaac Newton vs. Robert Hooke on the law of universal gravitation
In Newton’s correspondence with Richard Bentley, Newton rejected the possibility of remote action, even though he accepted it in the Principia. Practically, Newton’s natural philosophy is indissolubly linked to his conception of God. The knowledge of God seems to be essentially immutable, unlike the laws of nature that can be subjected to refining, revision and rejection procedures. As Newton later states in Opticks, the cause of gravity is an active principle in matter, but this active principle is not an essential aspect of matter, but something that must have been added to matter by God, arguing in the same Query of Opticks even the need for divine intervention.
About God in Newton’s correspondence with Richard Bentley and Queries in Opticks
The interpretation of Isaac Newton’s texts has sparked controversy to this day. One of the most heated debates relates to the action between two bodies distant from each other (the gravitational attraction), and to what extent Newton involved God in this case. Practically, most of the papers discuss four types of gravitational attractions in the case of remote bodies: direct distance action as intrinsic property of bodies in epicurean sense; direct remote action divinely mediated by God; remote action mediated by a material ether; or remote action mediated by an immaterial ether. The purpose of this paper is to argue that Newton categorically rejected the types of direct action as the intrinsic property of bodies, and remote action mediated by a material ether. Concerning the other two types of action, direct through divine intervention and mediated through an immaterial environment, Newton has repeatedly stated that he does not know the exact cause of gravity, but in both cases, he has directly involved God, directly in the first case and as the primary cause (the environment/ether being the secondary cause) in immaterial mediated action. But since recognition of direct distance action could have given some credit to those who thought gravity could be essential to matter, and hence to atheism, Newton never openly acknowledged the possibility of such an idea.
Keywords: Isaac Newton, action at a distance, God, gravity, gravity law, gravitation
Correspondence with Richard Bentley
Queries in Opticks
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Isaac Newton on the action at a distance in gravity: With or without God?
Different authors have attempted to clarify the aspects of remote action and God’s involvement on the basis of textual investigations, mainly from the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, (Newton, 1999b) Newton’s correspondence with Richard Bentley (1692/93), (Bentley 1693) and Queries that Newton introduced at the end of the Opticks book in the first three editions (between 1704 and 1721). (Newton 1952)
Newton’s action at a distance – Different views