Classics of Modern Science, Copernicus to Pasteur

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Author: Isaac Newton

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Science

IX Sir Isaac Newton 1642–1727

THE THEORY OF GRAVITATION

*

BOOK III. PROPOSITION V. THEOREM V. SCHOLIUM

The force which retains the celestial bodies in their orbits has been hitherto called centripetal force; but it being now made plain that it can be no other than a gravitating force, we shall hereafter call it gravity. For the cause of that centripetal force which retains the moon in its orbit will extend itself to all the planets.

BOOK III. PROPOSITION VI. THEOREM VI.

That all bodies gravitate towards every planet; and that the weights of bodies towards any the same planet, at equal distances from the centre of the planet, are proportional to the quantities of matter which they severally contain.

It has been, now of a long time, observed by others, that all sorts of heavy bodies (allowance being made for the inequality of retardation which they suffer from a small power of resistance in the air) descend to the earth from equal heights in equal times; and that equality of times we may distinguish to a great accuracy, by the help of pendulums. I tried the things in gold, silver, lead, glass, sand, common salt, wood, water, and wheat. I provided two wooden boxes, round and equal; I filled the one with wood, and suspended an equal weight of gold (as exactly as I could) in the centre of oscillation of the other. The boxes hanging by equal threads of 11 feet made a couple of pendulums perfectly equal in weight and figure, and equally receiving the resistance of the air. And, placing the one by the other, I observed them to play together forwards and backwards, for a long time, with equal vibrations. . . . and the like happened in the other bodies. By these experiments, in bodies of the same weight, I could manifestly have discovered a difference of matter less than the thousandth part of the whole, had any such been. But, without all doubt, the nature of gravity towards the planets is the same as towards the earth. . . . Moreover, since the satellites of Jupiter perform their revolutions in times which observe the sesquiplicate proportion of their distances from Jupiter’s centre—that is, equal at equal distances. And, therefore, these satellites, if supposed to fall towards Jupiter from equal heights, would describe equal spaces in equal times, in like manner as heavy bodies do on our earth. . . . If, at equal distances from the sun, any satellite, in proportion to the quantity of its matter, did gravitate towards the sun with a force greater than Jupiter in proportion to his, according to any given proportion, suppose of d to e; then the distance between the centres of the sun and of the satellite’s orbit would be always greater than the distance between the centres of the sun and of Jupiter nearly in the sub-duplicate of that proportion; as by some computations I have found. And if the satellite did gravitate towards the sun with a force, lesser in the proportion of e to d, the distance of the centre of the satellite’s orbit from the sun would be less than the distance of the centre of Jupiter from the sun in the sub-duplicate of the same proportion. Therefore if, at equal distances from the sun, the accelerative gravity of any satellite towards the sun were greater or less than the accelerative gravity of Jupiter towards the sun but one 1–1000 part of the whole gravity, the distance of the centre of the satellite’s orbit from the sun would be greater or less than the distance of Jupiter from the sun by one 1–2000 part of the whole distance—that is, by a fifth part of the distance of the utmost satellite from the centre of Jupiter; an eccentricity of the orbit which would be be very sensible. But the orbits of the satellite are concentric to Jupiter, and therefore the accelerative gravities of Jupiter, and of all its satellites towards the sun, are equal among themselves. . . .

But further; the weights of all the parts of every planet towards any other planet are one to another as the matter in the several parts; for if some parts did gravitate more, others less, than for the quantity of their matter, then the whole planet, according to the sort of parts with which it most abounds, would gravitate more or less than in proportion to the quantity of matter in the whole. Nor is it of any moment whether these parts are external or internal; for if, for example, we should imagine the terrestrial bodies with us to be raised up to the orb of the moon, to be there compared with its body; if the weights of such bodies were to the weights of the external parts of the moon as the quantities of matter in the one and in the other respectively; but to the weights of the internal parts in a greater or less proportion, then likewise the weights of those bodies would be to the weight of the whole moon in a greater or less proportion; against what we have showed above.

Cor. 1. Hence the weights of bodies do not depend upon their forms and textures; for if the weights could be altered with the forms, they would be greater or less, according to the variety of forms in equal matter; altogether against experience.

Cor. 2. Universally, all bodies about the earth gravitate towards the earth; and the weights of all, at equal distances from the earth’s centre, are as the quantities of matter which they severally contain. This is the quality of all bodies within the reach of our experiments; and therefore (by rule 3) to be affirmed of all bodies whatsoever. . . .

Cor. 5. The power of gravity is of a different nature from the power of magnetism; for the magnetic attraction is not as the matter attracted. Some bodies are attracted more by the magnet; others less; most bodies not at all. The power of magnetism in one and the same body may be increased and diminished; and is sometimes far stronger, for the quantity of matter, than the power of gravity; and in receding from the magnet decreases not in the duplicate but almost in the triplicate proportion of the distance, as nearly as I could judge from some rude observations.

BOOK III. PROPOSITION VII. THEOREM VII.

That there is a power of gravity tending to all bodies, proportional to the several quantities of matter which they contain.

That all the planets mutually gravitate one towards another, we have proved before; as well as that the force of gravity towards every one of them, considered apart, is reciprocally as the square of the distance of places from the centre of the planet. And thence (by prop. 69, book I, and its corollaries) it follows, that the gravity tending towards all the planets is proportional to the matter which they contain.

Moreover, since all the parts of any planet A gravitate towards any other planet B; and the gravity of every part is to the gravity of the whole as the matter of the part to the matter of the whole; and (by law 3) to every action corresponds an equal reaction; therefore the planet B will, on the other hand, gravitate towards all the parts of the planet A; and its gravity towards any one part will be to the gravity towards the whole as the matter of the part to the matter of the whole. Q. E. D.

Cor. 1. Therefore the force of gravity towards any whole planet arises from, and is compounded of, the forces of gravity towards all its parts. Magnetic and electric attractions afford us examples of this; for all attraction towards the whole arises from the attractions towards the several parts. The thing may be easily understood in gravity, if we consider a greater planet as formed of a number of lesser planets meeting together in one globe, for hence it would appear that the force of the whole must arise from the forces of the component parts. If it is objected that, according to this law, all bodies with us must mutually gravitate one towards another, I answer, that since the gravitation towards these bodies is to the gravitation towards the whole earth as these bodies are to the whole earth, the gravitation towards them must be far less than to fall under the observation of our senses.

Cor. 2. The force of gravity towards the several particles of any body is reciprocally as the square of the distance from the particles; as appears from cor. 3, prop. 74, book I.

* Translated from the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

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Chicago: Isaac Newton, "The Theory of Gravitation," Classics of Modern Science, Copernicus to Pasteur in Classics of Modern Science, Copernicus to Pasteur, ed. William S. Knickerbocker (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927), 67–71. Original Sources, accessed February 21, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XQRBGKFSIYHN8UC.

MLA: Newton, Isaac. "The Theory of Gravitation." Classics of Modern Science, Copernicus to Pasteur, in Classics of Modern Science, Copernicus to Pasteur, edited by William S. Knickerbocker, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1927, pp. 67–71. Original Sources. 21 Feb. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XQRBGKFSIYHN8UC.

Harvard: Newton, I, 'The Theory of Gravitation' in Classics of Modern Science, Copernicus to Pasteur. cited in 1927, Classics of Modern Science, Copernicus to Pasteur, ed. , Alfred A. Knopf, New York, pp.67–71. Original Sources, retrieved 21 February 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XQRBGKFSIYHN8UC.