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Physics LibreTexts

1: A brief History of Classical Mechanics

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  • This chapter briefly reviews the historical evolution of classical mechanics since considerable insight can be gained from study of the history of science.

    • 1.1: Introduction
      There are two dramatically different approaches used in classical mechanics, Newtonian mechanics and the more powerful variational methods.
    • 1.2: Greek Antiquity
      The great philosophers in ancient Greece played a key role by using the astronomical work of the Babylonians to develop scientific theories of mechanics.
    • 1.3: Middle Ages
      The Dark Ages involved a long scientific decline in Western Europe that languished for about 900 years. Science was dominated by religious dogma, all western scholars were monks, and the important scientific achievements of Greek antiquity were forgotten. A few note worthy scholars stand out.
    • 1.4: Age of Enlightenment
      The Age of Enlightenment is a term used to describe a phase in Western philosophy and cultural life in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority.  A number of philosophers and mathematicians made significant contributions in this era. Newton's laws of motion and calculus were major developments.
    • 1.5: Variational methods in physics
      Development of variational principles in classical mechanics by Euler, Lagrange, Hamilton, and Jacobi, provided the foundation upon which modern physics has been built.
    • 1.6: The 20th Century Revolution in Physics
      The two greatest achievements of modern physics occurred in the beginning of the 20th century. The first was Einstein’s development of the Theory of Relativity; the Special Theory of Relativity in 1905 and the General Theory of Relativity in 1915. This was followed in 1925 by the development of quantum mechanics.

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