Almagest: Vol. VI, Issue 1

Table of Contents and Abstracts, Almagest 6-1, May 2015
Thematic Issue and Varia

Thematic Issue: Roger J. Boscovich

Aleksandar Petrović, Tomislav Petković
Boscovichianism pure and simple. A Foreword
DOI: 10.1484 / J.ALMAGEST.5.107468

Aleksandar Petrović
The presence of Boscovich’s Theoria Philosophiae Naturalisand the absence of its translations
DOI: 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.107460

The main objective of this paper is to examine the historical and cultural reasons why the significant work of Roger Boscovich, one among the most eminent philosophers and scientists of 18th century, has remained untranslated with the exception of English and Serbian/Croatian languages. Revealing the background of this strange void enables us to better understand the meaning of Boscovich’s Theoriae Philosophiae Naturalis.

Magda Stavinschi
Boscovich on the Romanian territories
DOI: 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.107461

Ruđer Josip Bošković was a physicist, an astronomer, a mathematician, a philosopher, a diplomat, a poet, a theologian and a Jesuit priest, who lived between 1711 and 1787. He was born in Dubrovnik. He lived most of his life in Italy and France, but he also spent time in other parts of Europe, including the Romanian territories. In 1756 he began a long career as a diplomat. He spent the winter of 1761-62 in Constantinople, the Ottoman capital. He then moved to Poland, after crossing Bulgaria, Dobruja and Moldova. More information about his journey through the Romanian territories can be found in the Giornale di un viaggio da Constantinopoli in Polonia published in 1762. This is a 323-page book that contains a detailed description of the journey, which started on the 24th of May 1762 and finished on the 15th of July of the same year. Boscovich, the astronomer, took advantage of the opportunity to carry out astronomical measurements which are now of greatest importance to Romanians. After numerous calculations, he established a latitude of 45°23' for Galaţi, which is very close to the correct one of 46°40'. In order to determine the longitude, Boscovich measured various distances between the Sun and the Moon with the aid of a clock that counted the seconds by means of the Sun’s height determined thanks to its reflection on the water. A few days later, he established the latitude of another city, Iassy. The centre was almost one minute ahead of the Prince’s residence, that is, 47°10', which is a very accurate figure. But two observations of the Moon at its passage at the meridian gave him a different result: 47°12', which Boscovich considered to be closer to reality, since this time he observed the Moon both directly and through its reflection on the lake. This presentation will consider his rich astronomical calculations in more detail and will also give a taste of his colourful descriptions of the places he visited.

Nada Savkovic
Occasional poetry by Roger Boscovich
DOI: 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.107462

The occasional book of poetry Per le nozze faustissime dell’egregio cavaliere Francesco conte di Brazza colla ornatissima dama Giulia contessa de’Piccolli by Roger Boscovich and Jacopo Andrea Vittorelli was published in 1785. The book comprises seven couplets by Boscovich in Latin, seven sonnets by Vittorelli in Italian and an introductory text by Count Roberto Roberti dedicated to Countess Arpalice Pappafava. Having returned to Italy from France, Boscovich, moved to the little town Bassano del Grappa, in northern Italy, in May 1783. His meeting with the Italian poet Vittorelli was inevitable. He lived for more than two years in Vittorelli’s home town. On the occasion of Boschovich’s departure Vittorelli wrote one sonnet –All’Illustre Boscovich– and later he wrote another sonnet –Sonetto XXXVI– where Roger’s name was mentioned twice.

Marko Uršič
Boscovich’s distinction between the potential and the actual space from the standpoint of modern search for the union of mind and nature
DOI: 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.107463

The Aristotelian distinction between potentiality and actuality concerning space was developed in Boscovich’s main work Theoria Philosophiae Naturalis (1758), where it served him to upgrade Newton’s conception of forces into a unified dynamic theory of nature. The main aim of this paper is to show that Boscovich’s “Single Law of Forces in Nature” and his distinction between potential space and actual “point-particles” might be relevant and inspiring in the modern search for a unified understanding of nature: not only in regard to the unification of the four basic physical forces in the so-called “Final Theory”, but also in regard to new ways for conceiving the relation between nature and mind.

Peter Lukan
Roger Boscovich and the quantum mechanical combination of dynamic and statistical laws
DOI: 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.107464

In this article I firstly examine Boscovich’s attitude towards laws of nature, which can be best inferred from his magnum opus Theoria philosophiae naturalis (1758) and from De continuitatis lege (1754). Secondly, I give an account of a contemporary view on laws on nature by Weingartner and Mittelstaedt, who recognize two types of laws, dynamic and statistical. Focussing on the latter type of laws, I present a short overview of their gradual establishment and stress Boscovich’s remarkable contribution in this regard. The establishment of statistical laws, which were in his time not recognized as such, played a key supporting role for the emerging modern scientific theory of atomism, of which Boscovich was one of the pioneers. This association of statistical laws and atomism had an impact on the formation of quantum mechanics, which can be understood as combining both types of natural laws. I conclude the article with an epistemic reflection, arguing that this duality of laws is to some extent implicit in Boscovich’s distinction, which he makes in De continuitatis lege, between the potential and actual, concepts which he acquired from Aristotle but modified by connecting them to the concepts of continuity and discreteness.

Tomislav Petković
R.J. Boscovich’s Achievement in Natural Philosophy in Relation to the Development of Modern Particle Physics
DOI: 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.107465

R. J. Boscovich (1711-1787) was the first in the history of philosophy to combine Newton, Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz’s method of thought in the middle of the 18th century before the Maxwell-Einstein era of physics, synthesising them into his new method of thought on Nature. His method may be expressed by the epistemological formula more geometrico sive mathematico-more rationali-more empirico-more theologico, which encapsulates the four fundaments of science. Philosophy and religion are unified in Boscovich’s thought. Boscovich’s A Theory of Natural Philosophy on points-atoms as the ultimate building-blocks of matter is based on a single law of forces existing in nature. The Theory itself has been fundamental for the modern scientific picture of the world and the basic concepts of nature to date, due to the structure of nature and the phenomenology of particles it brings forward. Boscovich is the father of the original pictorial representation of the points-particles (dynamism hypothesis), important both for the modern concept of subatomic particles (from electrons, protons and neutrons to quarks) of the 20th century, and the predicted and expected new particles and objects of the 21st century. Accordingly, N. Bohr, W. Heisenberg and L. Lederman did indeed praise Boscovich’s Theory. However, it was Richard P. Feynman who showed keen interest in Boscovich’s atomism, having accepted it as his metaphysical credo 200 years after its formulation. Using an effective epistemic approach, the paper links Boscovich’s ingenious apperception of points and particles with Feynman’s ingenious and precise parton-quark physics of the Standard Model. Boscovich’s theory was launched brilliantly on a new path by the discovery of the atomic nucleus and the nuclear model of the atom in 1911 in Manchester. The scientific-philosophical compatibility of the Dubrovnik-born thinker with E. Rutherford was put into the limelight by Rutherford’s paper from 1911 by way of three statements: the atomic nucleus as Boscovich’s point – a point source of Coulomb force, an α particle is also a point, and the impact parameter in an encounter between an alpha (α) particle and a gold nucleus has the character of distance resembling the one in Boscovich’s curve. In a modern epistemic analysis, going beyond an orthodox scientific approach, the paper shows that the most interesting legacy of Boscovich’s tree of repulsion and attraction forces lies chiefly in the tree-level picture of nuclear forces in contemporary low-energy physics. The paper shows, beyond a conventional opportunity of the 300th anniversary of Boscovich’s birth in 2011 that was declared the year of Boscovich in both Croatia and the world within the philosophy of nature, that Boscovich conceived the original apperception of point-particles (atoms) with a single universal law of forces between them. In light of the modern particle physics picture of nature, Boscovich’s legacy –including the most recent interpretations of his epoch-making work A Theory of Natural Philosophy (Vienna 1758 and Venice 1763)– is particularly important due to the current epistemic challenges of “new physics” dealing with new objects and/or particles at high energies, as well as for the global interferences between contemporary science and culture.


Tuncay Zorlu
Engineering and Humour in the Late Ottoman Empire: The Journal SHAQA
DOI: 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.107466

Engineering education in the Ottoman Empire goes back to the early 18th century and starts within the military schools. In the course of time, civil educational institutions appear from the 19th century onwards. Engineering School (Mühendis Mekteb-i Alisi) is the cornerstone in terms of the institutionalized engineering education with its educational program and curricula. This engineering school will evolve into present Istanbul Technical University. The journal Shaqa is issued by the students of this engineering school and reflects scientific, educational, social, political, literal, psychological as well as ironic and humoural aspects of the time. This article aims to explore the engineering education of the time along with the atmosphere conceptualized and depicted by the students of the school through poems, essays, formulas and visual materials. It also aims to provide the readers with an opportunity to follow the activities of the school by means of the students remarks, opinions and criticisms about the engineering education.

Bernard Pourprix
La Mécanique physique au sens de Joseph Boussinesq
DOI: 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.107467

Joseph Boussinesq (1842-1929), mathématicien et physicien, élu à l’Académie des sciences dans la section de Mécanique, est connu pour ses travaux sur l’élasticité et l’hydrodynamique. Ceux-ci font partie intégrante d’une Mécanique physique conçue comme une explication générale de tous les phénomènes en termes de mouvements moléculaires. D’un côté, Boussinesq semble s’inscrire dans le prolongement des vues de Poisson. De l’autre, il fait figure de rénovateur : il remanie la Mécanique en donnant la primauté au concept d’énergie. La Mécanique physique se rattache à la famille des théories dynamiques construites dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle sur la base de la loi de la conservation des forces vives. L’intention de Boussinesq est de la situer à la jonction des voies newtonienne et leibnizienne. Comme il ne peut pas remonter jusqu’aux actions moléculaires individuelles, il trouve un subterfuge : grâce à sa bonne intelligence du côté géométrique des choses, il passe maître dans l’art de définir analytiquement des classes de phénomènes et de les mettre ensuite en harmonie. Au cœur de ses conceptions épistémologiques il y a la croyance en un monde géométrique autonome, modèle et idéal du monde physique. Dans l’exploration des rapports entre ces deux mondes, Boussinesq arrive aux confins de la science et de la métaphysique. Son mémoire sur la Conciliation du véritable déterminisme mécanique avec l’existence de la vie et de la liberté morale est représentatif d’une œuvre qui, dans sa totalité, présente une dimension métaphysique et religieuse en pleine cohérence avec sa dimension scientifique. Les idées de science et de progrès qui s’en dégagent expliquent l’éclectisme dont fait preuve l’auteur dans l’élaboration de sa Mécanique physique.