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Manuscripts and Related Writings of the Pioneers of the Scientific Revolution


Collection of Galileo Galilei's Manuscripts and Related Translations

According to a well established view Galileo's theory of motion as it is laid down in his Discorsi ("Discourse on Two new Sciences") marks the beginning of classical mechanics. His work does not yet represent the full fledged classical theory as it emerged in the contributions of Newton and others, but following this widespread interpretation, Galileo did take the first decisive steps: he criticized and overcame the traditional Aristotelian world picture, he introduced the experimental method, he concentrated on a systematic and concise description of single phenomena rather than searching for their causes and elaborating an overarching philosophy of nature, and he succeeded in the mathematical analysis of some of the key problems of classical mechanics such as the the law of fall or the proposition that the trajectory of projectile motion is parabolic in shape.
Galileo's notes on motion and mechanics (Ms. Gal 72) document his work on these and other mechanical problems over a period of more than forty years. The manuscript consists of more than 300 pages. They contain numerous short texts in Latin and Italian, representing sketches of proofs, but also extended drafts intended for publication, calculations, tables of calculated numbers, diagrams, and even some documents pertaining to experiments performed by Galileo. The manuscript is considered the essential source of information on the intellectual route followed by Galileo in achieving the insights he submitted in the Discorsi .

Galileo's De Motu Antiquiora ('Older Writings on Motion') comprise a set of unpublished documents dating most probably from Galileo's Pisan period (1589-1592). These manuscripts include the Text of an essay on motion (pp. 251-419 in Favaro's edition), two alternative versions of material found in the above essay (pp. 341-43 and 344-66), a dialogue on motion (pp. 367-408), a set of fragmentary notes or memoranda dealing with motion (pp. 409-17), and an outline of topics to be covered in a work on motion (pp. 418-19). These writings document Galileo's early concern with questions such as the speed at which objects fall in different media, the speed of an object moving along an inclined plane, and projectile motion.

Collection of Historical Sources on Simon Stevin

Simon Stevin's (1548-1620) work is part of the general scientific revival that resulted from the commercial and industrial prosperity of the cities of the Netherlands and northern Italy in the sixteenth century. This development was further spurred by the discovery of the principal works of antique science &dsh; especially those of Euclid, Apollonius, Diophantus, and Archimedes &dsh; which were brought to western Europe from Byzanthium, then in a state of decline, or from the Arabic centers of learning in Spain. Stevin wrote on a variety of topics. A number of his works are almost wholly original, while even those that represent surveys of science as it existed around 1600 contain his own interpretations; all are characterized by a remarkable lucid and methodological presentation. Stevin chose to write almost all of his books in the vernacular. In the introduction to his De Beghinselen der Weeghconst of 1586, he stated his admiration for Dutch as a language of wonderful power in shaping new terms; and a number of words coined by stevin and his contemporaries survive in the rich Dutch scientific vocabulary.

Collection of Manuscripts on Nature, Medical Science and Technics by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)

The special problems for any comprehensive treatment of the scientific investigations of Leibniz arise, on the one hand, from the fact that essential parts of his work have not been edited and, on the other hand, from the universality of his scientific interests (in his case ranging from physics through theory of law, linguistic philosophy, and histeriography to particular questions of dogmatic theology). In view of this diversity of interests and the fragmentary, or rather encyclopedic, character of his work, the expositor is confronted with the task of achieving, at least in the part, what Leibniz himself, following architectonic principles (within the framework od scientia generalis), was unable to accomplish.
Leibniz' work is rather a marked metapysical and methodological concern that systematically expresses variations on the same theme in various special fields and underlies Leibniz' quest to establish a unified system of knowledge.
The writings of Leibniz are based on his search for the ultimate grounds of mechanism that led him to metaphysics and the doctrine of entelechies. Instead of setting out his philosophy systematically in a magnum opus, Leibniz presented piecemeal clarifications of his views in works that, in various ways, were inspired by the publications of others, among them Huygens, Hobbes, Descartes, Malebranchem Papin, Arnauld, and Newton.

The manuscripts of Thomas Harriot (1560–1621)

The work of the English mathematician and philosopher Thomas Harriot (1560-1621) is amazingly broad, ranging from the concern with linguistic and ethnological questions to the theory of algebraic equations. In particular, topics of practical mathematics and natural philosophy that concerned also Galileo, such as fortification, shipbuilding, astronomy, optics, and mechanics, play a central role in Harriot's work. However, unlike his famous Italian contemporary, Harriot did not publish any of his scientific results, the only exception being a small report on his voyage to the New World that he undertook as versatile expert in the service of his first patron, Sir Walter Ralegh. Harriot's work therefore has to be reconstructed from his manuscripts. This fact has considerably hampered Harriot's reception, not only by his contemporaries, but also in the history of science.
Here, for the first time, a large selection from Harriot's manuscripts is made openly accessible through an electronic presentation: Harriot's notes on motion. Harriot left about 8,000 folio pages mainly containing his working notes and only few pages prepared for presentation (Add MSS 6782 - 6789 in der British Library and HMC 240, 241 in Petworth House, Sussex). The selection presented here contains about 350 folio pages preserved in the British Library. The folios have been chosen in a survey of the total of 8,000 pages by rough analysis of their contents in the attempt to produce a collection as complete as possible.
The notes document Harriot's work on the problem of motion in which he is primarily concerned with projectile motion and the motion of fall. The manuscripts are, however, highly unordered. Based on the results of scholarly work, the electronic presentation will in the near future be increasingly complemented with navigational tools that shall make the manuscripts more accessible.
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