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The Penultimate CuriosityHow Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions$
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Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747956.001.0001

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The Universal Law

The Universal Law

(p.172) Chapter Twenty-One The Universal Law
The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner

Andrew Briggs

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes events that followed Roger Bacon’s death in 1294. His successors in both Oxford and Paris began developing various ways of using the idea of a mathematically universal law to understand the physical world. In Oxford this was particularly associated with a series of fellows at Merton College. These include Thomas Bradwardine, who devised a mathematical formula to establish the relationship between the force applied to an object, the resistance to its motion, and the velocity that results; and Merton logician William of Heytesbury, who developed a formula stating that ‘a moving body will travel in an equal period of time a distance exactly equal to that which it would travel if it were moving continuously at its mean speed’. These mathematical approaches to physics were soon echoed in Paris where they were combined with an idea of motion that contradicted the traditional theory of Aristotle.

Keywords:   Oxford, Paris, universal law, physical world, Thomas Bradwardine, William of Heytesbury, motion, Aristotle, Merton College

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