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How Galileo dropped the ball and Fermat picked it up

Roberts, Bryan W. (2011) How Galileo dropped the ball and Fermat picked it up. Synthese, 180 (3). pp. 337-356. ISSN 0039-7857

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11229-009-9705-7


This paper introduces a little-known episode in the history of physics, in which a mathematical proof by Pierre Fermat vindicated Galileo’s characterization of freefall. The first part of the paper reviews the historical context leading up to Fermat’s proof. The second part illustrates how a physical and a mathematical insight enabled Fermat’s result, and that a simple modification would satisfy any of Fermat’s critics. The result is an illustration of how a purely theoretical argument can settle an apparently empirical debate.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2011 Springer
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BC Logic
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2013 15:36
Last Modified: 20 May 2020 02:27

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