The Retired Faculty Association

“Tea Time Presentations”


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Social Hour at 3:00 PM: Presentation at 3:30 PM




The Academy Chapel, 970 Aurora, in Boulder


Please, come to meet new friends, your old colleagues, sample excellent refreshments, and enjoy a great program


There will be lecture by Prof. Michael Nauenberg, Dept. of Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz


 Teaching Newton's Natural Philosophy in the Age of Enlightenment




Starting in the 18th century , several textbooks were written to teach the Newtonian philosophy, methodology and practice of natural philosophy that we now call physics. Among some of the most prominent writers were s’Gravesande in Leiden and Desaguliers in Oxford, who translated s’ Gravesande original text, "Mathematical elements of Natural philosophy confirmed by experiments or an introduction to Sir Isaac Newton’s philosophy”, from Latin into English. S’Gravesande declared that we justifiably called Newtonian that philosophy in which, hypothesis having been rejected, conclusions are deduced from phenomena; no one before Newton followed this method unremittingly or even proposed that it was always to be followed. “ These textbooks were primarily conned to Newton’s experimental philosophy, in the form that Newton described in his Opticks, leaving out the difficult mathematical propositions of his Principia. Other textbooks at the time including Hauksbee’s “A course of mechanical, magnetical, optical, hydrostatical and pneumatical experiments” and Pemberton’s “A view of Sir Isaac Newton’s philosophy”, in England; Voltaire’s “Elements of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy”, in France; Algarotti’s “Sir IsaacNewton’s Philosophy explained for the use of the Ladies”, in Italy, and Helsham, “A course of lectures in Natural philosophy” in Ireland. Less well known is a textbook by another Irishman, Robert Gibson, entitled “A course of experimental philosophy; being an introduction to the true philosophy of Sir Isaac Newton”, printed in Dublin in 1755. Starting with Gibson’s remarkable but now forgotten textbook, I plan to describe some of its contents and that of other textbooks , focusing on a few original experiments, particularly on the flow of liquids that were either performed or copied from other authors, which has become a standard practice today. These experiments are of interest, because in the first edition of the Principia (1687), Book 2, Newton gave theoretical explanations and experimental descriptions of fluid flow that were incorrect, and only partly corrected in subsequent editions. The first book describing correctly fluid flow was Daniel Bernoulli’s “Hydrodynamica”, published in 1738.

A short profile

Michael Nauenberg received his PhD at Cornell University under Hans Bethe in 1960, and currently he is an emeritus professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is one of the founders of this Physics department, and apart from his teaching and research in physics, he has had a long standing interest in the history of 17th and 18-th century physics. He has published over a dozen articles in this field, and one of his most recent papers is on the reception of Newton’s celestial mechanics and gravitation that will appear in a forthcoming volume on the reception of Newton in Europe, edited by Scott Mandelbrot and Helmut Pulte. Further information can be found at the website of the UCSC Physics Dept.



PARKING:  The academy encourages using public transportation or car pooling.  Due to limited parking space visitors who drive are asked to park on the Academy side of 10th Street.

Coming from Denver:  Exit route 36 at Baseline Road, drive west on Baseline, turn right on 10th St. and continue 2 blocks north to Aurora.


Please, if you plan to attend respond to Richard Blade by Tuesday, April 17th, at or 720 789-5805.