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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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Mechanization of physics

Mechanization of physics

(p.30) 3 Mechanization of physics
Mechanistic Images in Geometric Form


Oxford University Press

For Heinrich Hertz and most of his contemporaries and precursors from the 17th century on, mechanics was not just one among many more recent areas of physics. It was the basic discipline of physics. In a weak sense this meant that mechanics was a perfect model for other disciplines, and in a stronger sense it meant that the ultimate goal of physics was to give mechanical explanations of all natural phenomena. Electromagnetism gradually led to the decline of the mechanistic world view and ironically Hertz was among the contributors to this tendency. Indeed, in Hertz's theoretical papers on James Clerk Maxwell's theory he did not give any mechanical explanation of the electromagnetic phenomena, but having introduced some basic physical ideas and operational definitions of the fields he treated the theory from an axiomatic, mathematical point of view.

Keywords:   mechanics, James Clerk Maxwell, physics, electromagnetism, mechanical explanations

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