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[In this chapter I consider De Volder’s approach to cosmology, which probably led him to relinquish Cartesianism around 1700. I argue that the appearance of Newton’s Principia – containing a striking criticism of Descartes’s vortex theory of planetary motion – and the failure of Huygens to provide an experimental confirmation of his own alternative model, which he used to correct Descartes’s model of gravity and oppose Newton’s idea of universal gravitation, eventually led De Volder to renounce the teaching of natural philosophy, as he could accept neither Newton’s, nor the Cartesian models. In particular, I analyse De Volder’s role in evaluating the results obtained by Huygens in two distinct trials to calculate longitude at sea by means of pendulum clocks, the shortening of which according to latitude was calculated by Huygens using his model of gravity. The outcome of these trials led De Volder to reject Huygens’s theory, and ultimately to dismiss Descartes’s model. Moreover, I consider De Volder’s attempt to combine Newton’s and Descartes’s ideas in the explanation of the movement of the Moon, a case in which Descartes’s vortex theory was immune to Newton’s criticism, but which could not be extended to the explanation of planetary movements.]
Published: Nov 19, 2019
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