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Mathematical Treasure: English Translation of Newton’s Principia Mathematica

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica first appeared in Latin in 1687. Newton published two corrected and expanded editions in 1713 and 1726. (See 1714 printings of the second edition here and here.) Andrew Motte (1696-1734), brother of one of Great Britain’s most famous publishers, Benjamin Motte, translated the 1726 edition into English and published it in 1729. Finally, in 1846, an official American edition of Motte’s translation of Principia Mathematica appeared. The following excerpts are from this edition and are intended to illustrate the scope of Isaac Newton’s genius.

Title page of 1840s American edition of Newton's Principia Mathematica in English.

A heroic portrait of Isaac Newton serves as the frontispiece for this book.

Portrait of Newton in 1840s American edition of Newton's Principia Mathematica in English.

The “Introduction” provides insight into the need for an American edition.

Introduction to 1840s American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.Introduction to 1840s American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.

Introduction to 1840s American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.

On page 83, we find the statement of “Newton’s Laws of Motion.”

Page 83 from 1840s American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.

On pages 116-117, Newton explored the forces on a body revolving in an elliptical orbit.

Page 116 from 1840s American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.Page 117 from 1840s American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.

The discussion on page 162 considers the effects of a body falling due to gravity.

Page 162 from 1840s American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.

Our planetary system possesses a center of gravity.

Page 401 from 1846 American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.

In Section IV of the Principia, Newton developed theories for motion of a body in a restricting medium.

Page 287 from 1846 American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.

The Great Comet of 1680 was studied by Isaac Newton to verify Kepler’s Laws of Motion. Newton mathematically confirmed the comet’s parabolic trajectory.

Page 484 from 1846 American printing of English translation of Newton's Principia.

This material is obtained through the courtesy of the University of California Libraries. A complete digital copy can be read on the UC Libraries’ Internet Archive.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: English Translation of Newton’s Principia Mathematica," Convergence (May 2017)

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