Physics Colloquium: Analytical mechanics and the emergence of energy conservation

Prof. Shaul Katzir, The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, TAU

11 June 2023, 14:00 
Shenkar Building, Melamed Hall 006 
Physics Colloquium



At first glance the connection between energy conservation and mechanics seems trivial. In its first mathematical formulation in 1847, Helmholtz presented the conservation of energy ("force" in his terms) as an extension of the well-known mechanical principle of conservation of vis viva (mv2), and the conservation of mechanical energy is taught today as a special case of the general principle. Yet, historians doubted the significance of mechanics in the emergence of energy physics. They showed that previously classical physics was not considered as a conservative theory, i.e. it permitted loss of energy, suggested other important causes for the emergence of energy considerations (e.g. concern with engines, with the source of animal motion, with the nature of heat) and they did not see a close historical relation with analytical mechanics. In this talk I will trace a development line form analytical mechanics and the principle of conservation of vis vivathrough a few subfields of physics to the formulation of energy conservation, and claim that they played a more important role than usually assumed in the emergence of energy physics. 



Event Organizer: Prof. Amiel Sternberg

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