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Isaac Newton's Scientific MethodTurning Data into Evidence about Gravity and Cosmology$
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William L. Harper

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570409

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570409.001.0001

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Unification and the Moon‐Test (Propositions 3 and 4 Book 3)

Unification and the Moon‐Test (Propositions 3 and 4 Book 3)

(p.160) 4 Unification and the Moon‐Test (Propositions 3 and 4 Book 3)
Isaac Newton's Scientific Method

William L. Harper

Oxford University Press

It reviews Newton’s argument for the claim that the moon is maintained in its orbit by an inverse-square force directed toward the earth. It introduces Newton’s moon-test argument for identifying the force that maintains the moon in its orbit with terrestrial gravity. Newton shows that inverse-square adjusting the centripetal acceleration exhibited by the lunar orbit agrees with Huygens’ measurement of the strength of terrestrial gravity at the surface of the earth. This chapter includes a somewhat detailed account of Newton’s moon-test calculation, including his dubious precession correction. It discusses his first two Rules for reasoning in natural philosophy, and his two-body correction. It examines the informative moon-test argument presented in Newton’s scholium to proposition 4. It argues that the agreement between the moon-test measurements and the pendulum measurements of the strength of terrestrial gravity is an example of empirical success. It also reviews the lunar precession problem.

Keywords:   inverse-square force, centripetal acceleration, moon-test, precession correction, terrestrial gravity, Huygens’ measurement, pendulum measurements, Newton’s Rules 1 and 2, agreeing measurements, empirical success

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