Long-Term Development of Mechanical Knowledge

Long-Term Development of Mechanical Knowledge

Other involved Scholars: 

Sonja Brentjes, Jochen Büttner, Matthias Schemmel, Antonio Becchi, Pietro D. Omodeo, Rivka Feldhay, Martin Frank

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Ramelli, Agostino, Le diverse et artificiose machine, Parigi, In casa dell’autore, 1588, 335 v. Use of a quadrant for calculating the ranges of artillery shots as a means of improving accuracy in the field; from ECHO.

Mechanical knowledge is characterized by the continuity of its tradition from antiquity until the time between the end of the seventeenth and the eighteenth century when preclassical mechanics prepared the background against which modern physics emerged and fundamental categories, concepts, and views changed, disappeared, and were replaced with new ones. Research is pursued in reference to ancient, medieval, and preclassical mechanics, up to the scientific work of Isaac Newton. Further research endeavors explore the emergence from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century of the concept of “useful sciences” in relation to technological innovations. The long-term development of mechanics is mainly investigated from the perspective of the relations between practical and theoretical knowledge and between scientific practice and its context. The overall objective of the project is to show the fundamental influence of social conditions and material culture on the large-scale structures of scientific development.

Research concerning the links that have emerged between mechanical practices and the foundation of theoretical mechanics in classical antiquity as well research focusing on later developments up until the ninth century in the Islamicate world is conducted in the context of the project Globalization of Knowledge and its Consequences because of the crucial role of cross-cultural transmission processes at these stages of the development of mechanical knowledge.

Since 2005, the theoretical framework for studying the relation between modern and ancient science, as well as numerous case studies illustrating this relation, are elaborated in cooperation with the joint research center at the Humboldt University, the CRC 644 Transformations of Antiquity.