The Greatest? Newton's Principia

By cjohnson | January 9, 2006 1:46 am

See here for the voting procedure, and background.

I. Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. 1687

Newton’s Principia. Yeah, it counts as a paper….them’s the rules. The entry that is going in as the clear favourite. Is it a bit cocky? Too overconfident? We shall see. Scans of the covers, etc, here. Link to Chandrasekhar’s digest version here.

Make one comment, which will be your vote. (Any other comments from you on this thread will be deleted.) Feel free to tell the world what this paper means to you…. and why you voted for it over the others….. Or you can just make a comment that registers your vote, making whatever noise you want!

Voting ends 9:00pm, Jan 16th Pacific Standard Time.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Entertainment, Science
  • Levi

    Not even a close call.

  • Leo


  • JoseIRS

    The begining of All.

  • Dan K

    This is the one. Without it, no science as we know it.

  • Torbjorn Larsson

    A classic.

  • Chad Orzel

    It loses points for being in Latin, and nearly unreadable besides, but it created physics as we know it, so there’s no contest.

  • Dissident

    It’s hard to dissent at times like this.

  • Science

    This is the central document behind existing physics, mainly for the move away from the search for causality and mechanism, instead focussing empirical ‘laws’ or predictive mathematics. For the resulting errors, such as Newton’s fiddled sound speed theory which used dimensional analysis and ignored the adiabatic effect (variation of speed due to the rise in temperature which accompanies the pressure of a sound wave) see

  • Sean

    An easy call.

  • Joe

    Newton’s the one, but I am a bit surprised at the modesty of the claims for his importance:

    I think it’s fair to say not only that Newton definitively established human reason in conjunction with the scientific method as the primary tool for acquiring knowledge of the universe and the whole human environment, but that this achievement is what made the third data processing revolution possible (the first two being the invention of language and the invention of writing).

    The third one consists of the application of science to the discovery of all of those modern technologies that have made possible the successive waves of improvements in the time and space parameters in the data processing cycle from the invention of punched card systems and steam powered travel to photography, the telegraph, telephone, radio, TV, computers, satellite communication systems, the Internet, the Web, and the blogosphere.

    And it is also worth mentioning that in turning the attention of the Western world so firmly towards the power of reason, he established the trend in human affairs that led to the production of the founding documents of the United States. (Which, of course, one may or may not absolutely approve of. :) )

    But the fact is, no Newton, no modern world, and we’d still be dumping chamber pots in open gutters in the street every morning.

  • CanuckRob

    Hard to argue against this one

  • Elliot

    I would say this is obvious but I guess it’s not.


  • tom fish

    This guy, just some guy, this naked ape, codified the laws of nature and invented the language (calculus) in which he did it! Come on!

  • Tom Renbarger

    Tally another vote for Principia.

  • vkrishna

    Me too. Newton, because he was the first, and because he changed the method by which physical problems are studied.

  • Count Iblis

    I vote for Newton.

  • Mike Molloy

    Set the standard.

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  • Sam Harrelson

    This should be the foundation for intro to physical sciences taught in all schools. so, as an 8th grade science teacher i was able to incorporate this into our curriculum as the “text book” we’re using as an intro into the physics part of our intro class.

  • Mark

    Count me in!

  • Amara

    most emphatically yes…

    Newton’s physics approach changed the methodology of scientific research forever. It showed that a physics law (Newton’s Law of Gravity) combined with logic (mathematics) can reveal new truths with relatively little effort. That is, the work of: Tycho Brahe (30 years observations) + Kepler (30 years of arithmetic analysis) was smoothly surpassed by only an hour or two of applying Newton’s formulas. And the Newtonian methodology, in addition to leading to specific deductions and predictions, showed the universality of physical laws. Whereas Kepler’s empirical discoveries were meant to apply only to the solar system (for example), Newton’s derivations showed that the laws of nature are universal.

  • robert

    This is the one. He also established the gold standard for professional malice, so, for good and bad, his influence is all pervading.

  • Papillon

    Isaac all the way, baby! (I do think contests of this sort- the greatest – are silly but hey, let the educated indulge!

    Come on it’s no contest in terms of ancestry of ideas- calculus (ok, Leibnitz had a better notation), beautifully simple laws, predictive powers, analytics…

    I guess it’s a shame Newton’s Optics will not have made the shortlist neither? It’s an astounding and supremely influential book too (well, I can’t think of a better word than “influential”).

    Anyway, it’s good to see the passion in the science!

  • Dick Thompson

    I’m for Newton, since you didn’t include Galileo’s relativity paper :). It’s the sine qua non of modern physics, even though few have read it and of those, still fewer have followed the argument in it.

  • auna

    Is this even fair?!

    I think Noether’s is one of the most elegent modern papers, but there’s really no contest.

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