The Documents

Science, Culture, and Society

Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy

The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy

Newton's own copy of his Principia, with hand-written corrections for the second edition

Short Description

This publication is widely regarded as one of the most important scientific works ever written. It contains the statement of Newton’s laws of motion forming the foundation of classical mechanics, as well as his law of universal gravitation and a derivation of Kepler’s laws for the motion of the planets.

Remnant Trust Description

First edition in English of Newton’s Principia. "The Principia is generally described as the greatest work in the history of science. Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler had certainly shown the way, but where they described the phenomena they observed, Newton explained the underlying universal laws. The Principia provided the greatest synthesis of the cosmos, proving finally its physical unity. Newton showed that the important and dramatic aspects of nature that were subject to the universal law of gravitation could be explained, in mathematical terms, with a single physical theory. With him the separation of the natural and supernatural, of sublunar and superlunar worlds disappeared. The same laws of gravitation and motion rule everywhere for the first time a single mathematical law could explain the motion of objects on earth as well as the phenomena of the heavens. The whole cosmos is composed of inter-connecting parts influencing each other according to these laws. It was this grand conception that produced a general revolution in human thought, equaled perhaps only by that following Darwin’s Origin of Species. It was the final, irrevocable break with a medieval conception based on Greek and Roman cosmology and a scholastic system derived from the medieval interpretation Aristotle. Although Newton was a profoundly (but not a conventionally) religious man, deeply impressed with the need for a divine power to create and conserve the universe, immutable laws of nature were sufficient sources of scientific explanation; hence Newton’s universe, almost independent of the spiritual order, ushered in the age of rationalism, scientific determinism and the acceptance of a mechanistic view of nature... [Newton] is generally regarded as one of the greatest mathameticians of all time and the founder of mathematical physics" (PMM 161).