nal des sçavans, presented a critical analysis, and this was not favourable. The review drew a clear distinction between the mathematical achievements of Newton and his physical theory: 'The work of Mr Newton is the most perfect mechanics we can imagine' but is based on 'hypotheses which are generally arbitrary'. Then at the end: 'Mr Newton has only to give us a physics as exact as the mechanics'. This shows clearly the grounds on which the Newtonian

A new translation of the influential Cartesian textbook Treatise on Physics by Rohault was prepared, with notes, by Samuel Clarke in 1697 forthe use of Cambridge students, largely because it was felt that Newton's work was unintelligible. Clarke made no criticism of the vortex theory but, in a later edition of 1702, he did describe the attraction theory of Newton. In the 1710 edition, Clarke described the vortices as fictions and, in later editions, the Newtonian arguments against the Cartesian theory were spelled out (Hoskin (1962)). Quoted from Westfall (1980), p. 470, (with changes to reflect modern spelling). For more on the relationship between Newton's work and eighteenth-century poetry, see 89 Nicolson (1946).

The reviews were all anonymous, but it is suspected that the one in the Le journal des sçavans was by Régis. Quotes from this review are from Aiton (1972).

system would be attacked by the Cartesians. Lacking any firm foundation in a mechanistic physics, the conclusions of the abstract mathematics could, at best, be treated only as a guide to any description of reality.

Many French astronomers were sceptical in the extreme of Newton's theory; particularly conspicuous in their opposition were Huygens and Leibniz, both of whom were sent copies of the Principia by Newton. Huygens, though he clearly admired Newton, could not accept universal gravitation:

I cannot agree with the principle which he supposes in this computation and elsewhere, viz. that all the small particles, which we can imagine in two or many different bodies, attract and try to approach one another. This I cannot admit because I think I see clearly that the cause of such an attraction cannot be explained by any principle of mechanics or by the rules of motion.

He did, however, accept that the cause of planetary motion was a gravitational force that varied inversely with the square of the distance; it was the mechanism that generated this gravity with which he took issue. Central to this was the question of what filled the space between the planets, which in Newton's case was very little. Huygens, however, required a more substantial ether for his theory of light. Leibniz, in a letter to Huygens in 1690, wrote:

I do not understand how he conceives gravity or attraction; it seems that to him it is only a certain immaterial and inexplicable virtue, whereas you explain it very

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