How Galileo dropped the ball and Fermat picked it up

Publication Year:
2009
Usage 810
Downloads 810
Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/4917
Author(s):
Roberts, Bryan W.
preprint description
This paper introduces a little-known episode in the history of physics, in which a mathematical proof by Pierre Fermat vindicated Galileo's characterization of freefall. The first part of the paper reviews the historical context leading up to Fermat's proof. The second part illustrates how a physical and a mathematical insight enabled Fermat's result, and that a simple modification would satisfy any of Fermat's critics. The result is an illustration of how a purely theoretical argument can settle an apparently empirical debate.