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Mechanistic Images in Geometric FormHeinrich Hertz's 'Principles of Mechanics'$
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Jesper Lützen

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198567370

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198567370.001.0001

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The fundamental law

The fundamental law

(p.198) 16 The fundamental law
Mechanistic Images in Geometric Form


Oxford University Press

In the usual Newtonian-Laplacian image, Isaac Newton's three laws of motion are often taken as the basic ones. Heinrich Hertz, on the other hand, formulated one and only one law of motion: that every free system persists in its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straightest path. Hertz's fundamental law can be formulated as follows: a free system moves with constant speed along a path that is as straight as it can be without breaking the connections of the system. Hertz's formulation of the fundamental law was surprisingly stable throughout his work on mechanics. It was the geometry of systems of points that allowed Hertz to limit the laws of motion to his one simple, elegant and intuitively appealing fundamental law. Hertz mentioned one other law that could have replaced his fundamental law on free systems, namely, the law of least acceleration.

Keywords:   fundamental law, mechanics, laws of motion, uniform motion, straightest path, connections, law of least acceleration, free systems

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