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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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Hertz’s road to mechanics

Hertz’s road to mechanics

(p.63) 6 Hertz’s road to mechanics
Mechanistic Images in Geometric Form


Oxford University Press

This chapter examines why Heinrich Hertz embarked on his work on mechanics and how he gradually developed his ideas. In particular, the chapter looks at how various elements of Hertz's previous work point toward the ideas laid down in the Principles of Mechanics. Hertz's experimental and theoretical investigations of electromagnetism provided a threefold background for his work on mechanics: axiomatisation, mechanisation, and elimination of distance forces from physics. Hertz's research on gravitation and ether is also discussed. For a person like Hertz who wanted to give a new presentation of mechanics without distance forces, there existed an obvious alternative to the ordinary theory: the energetic theory. One of the problems that made Hertz abandon the energetic mode of representation concerned the difficulty involved in imagining energy as a substance. This question had been addressed in electromagnetic theory by John Henry Poynting who introduced a measure of the energy flux in the electromagnetic field.

Keywords:   mechanics, electromagnetism, axiomatisation, mechanisation, distance forces, physics, energetic theory, energy, John Henry Poynting

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