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To scrutinize the whole of Nature: The Royal Society and its fellows 1660-1730

Keill's lectures on natural philosophy

A theorem on the properties of the lever, from: John Keill. An introduction to natural philosophy; or, Philosophical lectures read in the University of Oxford, anno Dom. 1700: to which are added, the demonstrations of Monsieur Huygens's theorems, concerning the centrifugal force and circular motion. London: Printed by H.W. for William and John Innys and John Osborn, 1720 [Rare Books Collection QC19.K26]A theorem on the properties of the lever, from: John Keill. An introduction to natural philosophy; or, Philosophical lectures read in the University of Oxford, anno Dom. 1700: to which are added, the demonstrations of Monsieur Huygens's theorems, concerning the centrifugal force and circular motion. London: Printed by H.W. for William and John Innys and John Osborn, 1720 [Rare Books Collection QC19.K26]The mathematician and natural philosopher John Keill (1671-1721) played an important role in the dissemination of Newtonian ideas in the first two decades of the eighteenth century.

In 1700, in his role as deputy to the Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy at Oxford, Keill gave an important and innovative series of lectures, which expounded Newtonian natural philosophy with the aid of practical demonstrations and experiments. These lectures were published as Introductio ad veram physicam (1702) to wide acclaim.

Later, in a paper in Philosophical transactions for May-June 1708 Keill gave the first detailed outline of the chemical aspects of Newton's theory of matter, using the idea of short-range attraction between small particles to explain phenomena, such as crystallization, dissolution and precipitation. Keill’s ideas were hugely influential in eighteenth and nineteenth century chemistry.

It was Keill who fired the first salvo in the calculus priority dispute between Newton and Leibniz. In a paper on centrifugal forces in Philosophical transactions (issue no. 317, 1708) he all but accused Leibniz of plagiarism, writing that while Newton had invented the ‘Arithmetic of fluxions’:

the same Arithmetic under a different name and using a different notation was later published in the Acta eruditorum, however, by Mr. Leibniz

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