“La Dynamique est la science des forces accélératrices or retardatrices, et des mouvemens variés qu’elles doivent produire. Cette science est due entièrement aux modernes, et Galilée est celui qui en a jeté les premiers fondemens.”
Lagrange Mec. Anal. I. 221.
FOR more than a century English speaking students have been placed in the anomalous position of hearing Galileo constantly referred to as the founder of modern physical science, without having any chance to read, in their own language, what Galileo himself has to say. Archimedes has been made available by Heath; Huygens’ Light has been turned into English by Thompson, while Motte has put the Principia of Newton back into the language in which it was conceived. To render the Physics of Galileo also accessible to English and American students is the purpose of the following translation.
The last of the great creators of the Renaissance was not a prophet without honor in his own time; for it was only one group of his country-men that failed to appreciate him. Even during his life time, his Mechanics had been rendered into French by one of the leading physicists of the world, Mersenne.
Within twenty-five years after the death of Galileo, his Dialogues on Astronomy, and those on Two New Sciences, had been done into English by Thomas Salusbury and were worthily printed in two handsome quarto volumes. The Two New Sciences, which contains practically all that Galileo has to say on the subject of physics, issued from the English press in 1665. It is supposed that most of the copies were destroyed in the great London fire which occurred in the year following. We are not aware of any copy in America: even that belonging to the British Museum is an imperfect one.
Again in 1730 the Two New Sciences was done into English by Thomas Weston; but this book, now nearly two centuries old, is scarce and expensive. Moreover, the literalness with which this translation was made renders many passages either ambiguous or unintelligible to the modern reader. Other than these two, no English version has been made.
Quite recently an eminent Italian scholar, after spending thirty of the best years of his life upon the subject, has brought to completion the great National Edition of the Works of Galileo. We refer to the twenty superb volumes in which Professor Antonio Favaro of Padua has given a definitive presentation of the labors of the man who created the modern science of physics.
The following rendition includes neither Le Mechaniche of Galileo nor his paper De Motu Accelerato, since the former of these contains little but the Statics which was current before the time of Galileo, and the latter is essentially included in the Dialogue of the Third Day. Dynamics was the one subject to which under various forms, such as Ballistics, Acoustics, Astronomy, he consistently and persistently devoted his whole life. Into the one volume here translated he seems to have gathered, during his last years, practically all that is of value either to the engineer or the physicist. The historian, the philosopher, and the astronomer will find the other volumes replete with interesting material.
It is hardly necessary to add that we have strictly followed the text of the National Edition — essentially the Elzevir edition of 1638. All comments and annotations have been omitted save here and there a foot-note intended to economize the reader’s time. To each of these footnotes has been attached the signature [Trans.] in order to preserve the original as nearly intact as possible.
Much of the value of any historical document lies in the language employed, and this is doubly true when one attempts to trace the rise and growth of any set of concepts such as those employed in modern physics. We have therefore made this translation as literal as is consistent with clearness and modernity. In cases where there is any important deviation from this rule, and in the case of many technical terms where there is no deviation from it, we have given the original Italian or Latin phrase in italics enclosed in square brackets. The intention here is to illustrate the great variety of terms employed by the early physicists to describe a single definite idea, and conversely, to illustrate the numerous senses in which, then as now, a single word is used. For the few explanatory English words which are placed in square brackets without italics, the translators alone are responsible. The paging of the National Edition is indicated in square brackets inserted along the median line of the page.
The imperfections of the following pages would have been many more but for the aid of three of our colleagues. Professor D. R. Curtiss was kind enough to assist in the translation of those pages which discuss the nature of Infinity: Professor O. H. Basquin gave valuable help in the rendition of the chapter on Strength of Materials; and Professor O. F. Long cleared up the meaning of a number of Latin phrases.
To Professor A. Favaro of the University of Padua the translators share, with every reader, a feeling of sincere obligation for his Introduction.
A. de S.
Evanston, Illinois, 15 February, 1914.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09