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The Genevan Edition of Newton's Principia

The Genevan Edition of Newton's Principia

Philosophy

The Genevan Edition of Newton's Principia


Coordinator: Dr. Paolo Bussotti

Philosophy

The Genevan Edition of Newton's Principia


Coordinator: Dr. Paolo Bussotti

The Genevan Edition of Newton's Principia

The third edition of Newton's masterpiece was published in 1726. Just 13 years later a further edition of the Principia was published in Geneva. It was characterised by unusual features: every proposition in Newton's work was accompanied by a substantial series of notes, generally much longer than the text itself. The authors of these notes are two mathematicians, Thomas Le Seur (1703–1770), François Jacquier (1711–1788), priests of the Minim order, and the Swiss scientist Jean-Louis Calandrini (1703–1758). The notes result in a diversity of styles and contents: there are mathematical explanations of those newtonian demonstrations that the English scientist presented only very briefly; descriptions of the further developments of Physics after Newton; actual treatises where the authors (especially Calandrini) explain their own theories about some issues for which Newton only provided the basis, without going into further details (for example, the complex problem of the lunar motion).

Since 2014 Prof. Raffaele Pisano (History of Science, University of Lille) and I are editing a series of articles with the purpose of explaining the structure of the notes added to the Genevan edition. We typically analyse an important proposition of the Principia, we describe how Newton developed the proof and we clarify the nature and the reasons behind the annotators' interventions. We have already published a dozen articles of this kind.

From 2015 we have a contract with the Oxford University Press for the full translation of the notes from Latin to English. The whole work will consist of five volumes: four will contain the translation and the last one will be dedicated to the explanations of the reasons that led us to bring such a huge and complex editorial project to fruition.

At present we have completed the translation of all the notes of the first book of the Principia, as well as part of those belonging to the second. We expect to finish the task in two years and a half.