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Old November 14th, 2017, 03:16 PM   #1

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Historical Impact of Einstein vs Newton


Hello everyone,

This topic was prompted in response to some of the comments made in the "most influential figures in history" thread. I apologize in advance if this is in the wrong section of the forum, but I figured it would be appropriate here since it involves general historical considerations.

In short, what do the people here think about the influence of Newton and his theories as opposed to Einstein? Which figure do you believe had the greater influence and historical significance and why?

My personal opinion is that Newton by far had a significantly greater impact as his physical theories, more so than those of prior figures like Galileo and Kepler, truly marked the ending of the transition from prior "Aristotelian" and teleological worldviews to mechanistic ones expressed in terms of simple and fundamental laws of nature from which the behavior of entire classes of phenomena could be predicted and empirically verified. They also had a large impact on the philosophical currents developed and expressed within the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment eras and inspired similar developments in other branches of sciences and in their respective methodologies and philosophical justifications.

By contrast, I would argue that Einstein's contributions to modern physics were not as influential (in a historical sense) since there were other mathematicians and physicists at the time who were in the process of resolving the problems with electrodynamics and gravitation. While he did lay some of the foundations for quantum mechanics, he increasingly became isolated from ongoing developments in that field due to his philosophical problems with it.

What are everyone else's thoughts? How were these figures and their theories received by the general public in their time and how influential were they in the context of the historical circumstances in their respective eras?
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Old November 14th, 2017, 03:30 PM   #2
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Probably Newton had more impact since his stuff is more practical, but Relativity is the kind of stuff that just blows your mind so it's a more impressive discovery.
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Old November 14th, 2017, 05:29 PM   #3
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Newton because even our calculations for space explorations are based on Newtonian Physics. However relativistic corrections are made for GPS.
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Old November 14th, 2017, 07:44 PM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by farmerjohn1324 View Post
Probably Newton had more impact since his stuff is more practical, but Relativity is the kind of stuff that just blows your mind so it's a more impressive discovery.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevev View Post
Newton because even our calculations for space explorations are based on Newtonian Physics. However relativistic corrections are made for GPS.

I do agree, but impact is more than just the practicality of a discovery. Its the subtle stuff like the way it changes the way people think and reason about the universe itself. Most people's intuitions about physics and the casual nature of various phenomena are in line with Newtonian mechanics whereas relativity hasn't made much headway in the public sphere other than as a source for sci-fi material.
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Old November 14th, 2017, 09:35 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by farmerjohn1324 View Post
Probably Newton had more impact since his stuff is more practical, but Relativity is the kind of stuff that just blows your mind so it's a more impressive discovery.
Not really. Even things like planes hardly rely on Newton. The Wright Brothers developed aviation technology pretty much through trial and error, not by reading Newton. Modern architects may also receive some passing knowledge of Newton in colleges, but they don't rely on him for their skyscrapers. Even in Newton's times, Britain did not industrialise through what Newton said.

Both Newton and Einstein are extremely overrated. I would even dare say Plato knew as much as Newton about natural physics, he just didn't mathematise what he knew like Newton did.
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Old November 14th, 2017, 11:06 PM   #6
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Both were and are greatly overrated. Newton was a successful idea thief who managed to smear the creators of "his" ideas. The theory of gravity was already suggested by Kepler. The Inverse Square Law that is "Newton's" extension of it was stolen by him from Robert Hooke who was it's real creator. "Newton's" calculus was likewise stolen ideas this time from Leibniz whom Newton actively slandered as an idea thief of "his" calculus. His successes as an idea thief were mainly due to him being the president of the Royal Society of Science and having the support of the House of Este (alias the: Guelfs; the Welfs; House of Hanover or House of Windsor).

As far as Newton being the founder of modern science, lol, I'll answer with three words The Portsmouth Papers.

Einstein has had little effect on the world, but a great deal of effect on astro-physics, which is a very soft science which is mainly a junk science (AKA not observable and not testable). It has a large house of hypotheses which like a house of cards if anyone of them is wrong will fall apart into nothing.

Both of these men were more Media Stars than men who profoundly changed the world.
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Old November 15th, 2017, 12:12 AM   #7

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Newton has got a historical advantage: he is the last researcher of the age of the "Scientific Revolution" [the period from Copernicus and Newton, with more accuracy from 1543 and 1687 CE, from "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium" to "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica"].

So that Newton is embedded in a wider historical phenomenon, while Einstein is a kind of "unicum".
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Old November 15th, 2017, 12:29 AM   #8

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Regarding the historical impact of their discoveries and theories, science is a continuous progress. Without basic math Newton would haven’t been able to write his equations … just to say. So we should evaluate how much the two scientists have accelerated this progress.

And probably Newton has been more practical, immediate, while Einstein has worked about something which is not that usable in the brief term. Newton’s theories and equations found really pragmatic and factual applications: one for all, ballistics [imagine the military applications].
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Old November 15th, 2017, 01:05 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlpinLuke View Post
Regarding the historical impact of their discoveries and theories, science is a continuous progress. Without basic math Newton would haven’t been able to write his equations … just to say. So we should evaluate how much the two scientists have accelerated this progress.

And probably Newton has been more practical, immediate, while Einstein has worked about something which is not that usable in the brief term. Newton’s theories and equations found really pragmatic and factual applications: one for all, ballistics [imagine the military applications].
Neither Gatling nor Maxim developed their guns reading Newton. The muskets and rifles of the 19th century also didn't make use of Newton. The AK-47 and M16 of the 20th and current century also didn't use Newton.
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Old November 15th, 2017, 05:20 AM   #10
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Hey Posters.

I agree with Eternal on putting this thread in this section and not in the specific one for philosophy and sciences. Newton’s and Einstein’s works go much beyond their little sciences clusters and they got into general culture.

I had heard before about Newton being a very problematic person, taking unfair advantage of his position in the sciences academy, insulting other scientists. Uselessly fighting Liebniz. Some mention that he wrote a letter just to insult another guy, from which is know that phrase about “sitting on the shoulders of giants”, phrase that doesn’t belong to him. But I’ve never read or heard before someone putting Newton together with Edison an Marconi.

I’ve also heard about Einstein doing nothing more than grab Mileva’s ideas. I definitely can’t agree on this. Some John Norton teacher from University of Pittsburg wrote an interesting papper about “How did Einstein think?”, which convinced me that his theories were straightly HIS (the paper pointed at the process of thinking, not at theft or not theft). Obviously, without Maxwell and Faraday, there would have been no Einstein. Possibly, without his chats with Michele Besso and Mileva Maric, Einstein would have been just Albert.

Anyway, even imaging the worst cases of ideas gun robbery, there is a legacy (fairly or not) with Newton’s name, as there is one with Einstein’s name.

How to compare their influence and historical significance? Not being an expert, it seems to me that at the time of Isaac Newton, lots of others were working in the same fields and the discoveries and theories would have been available the same day with or without Newton. On the other hand, young Einstein was thinking about this stuff that the scientific community wasn’t really giving much attention. So, IMHO, Einstein was more influential than Newton.

There is another interesting fact. There was a day in 1919 when Einstein became a celebrity. It’s no more than guessing but I think that must have been very inspiring for individuals to dedicate themselves to sciences. Also for governments to put more money in researching and higher education.

Ballistic researches depend on Newton equations. The atomic bomb was built form Einstein’s, or not?

¡¡Aguante Talleres!!
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