Isaac Newton on Mathematical
certainty and Method
About the book
Guicciardini reconstructs Newton's own method by extracting it from his concrete practice and not solely by examining his broader statements about such matters. He examines the full range of Newton's works, from his early treatises on series and fluxions to the late writings, which were produced in direct opposition to Leibniz. The complex interactions between Newton's understanding of method and his mathematical work then reveal themselves through Guicciardini's careful analysis of selected examples. Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method uncovers what mathematics was for Newton, and what being a mathematician meant to him.
The MIT Press
448 pages · June 2009
About the author
Niccolò Guicciardini is Professor of the History of Science at the University of Bergamo, Italy. He holds degrees in Philosophy and Physics (University of Milan, Italy) and holds a Ph.D. In History of Mathematics (Middlesex University, UK). He is the author of The Development of Newtonian Calculus in Britain, 1700-1800 (Cambridge UP, 1989), Reading the Principia: The Debate on Newton’s Mathematical Methods for Natural Philosophy from 1687 to 1736 (Cambridge UP, 1999), and Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method (MIT Press, 2009).
He has been Mellon Visiting Professor at Caltech (USA) and Professeur invité at the Université Paris 7.
He is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Commission for the History of Mathematics and he is a corresponding member of the Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences.
The 2011 Fernando Gil Prize for Philosophy of Science
The jury awarded the 2011 Fernando Gil International Prize for Philosophy of Science to Niccolò Guicciardini for his book: Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method, published in 2009 by MIT Press.
Niccolò Guicciardini is Professor in the University of Bergamo. Professor Guicciardini graduated in philosophy at the Università degli Studi di Milano in 1982. He had acquired an interest in the history and philosophy of mathematics, and went to London to work for a PhD under the supervision of Ivor Grattan-Guinness, one of the international leaders in the field of history of mathematics. The topic of Professor Guicciardini’s thesis was the reception of Newton’s method of fluxions, and his PhD was awarded in 1986. Remarkably, Professor Guicciardini’s decided to round off his education by acquiring a thorough knowledge of modern as well as 17th century physics, and completed a second degree at the Università degli Studi di Milano in 1992 – this time in physics.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Professor Guicciardini established his reputation as a leading Newton scholar with the publication of two books: The Development of Newtonian Calculus in Britain, 1700-1800, Cambridge University Press, 1989, and Reading the Principia: the Debate on Newton’s Mathematical Methods for Natural Philosophy from 1687 to 1736, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
There were two main reasons why the jury decided to award the 2011 Fernando Gil International Prize to Professor Guicciardini’s 2009 book. The first is the originality of the book. In it, Professor Guicciardini attempts for the first time to analyse the philosophy of mathematics, which underlies Newton’s mathematical practice. This is carried out with considerable philosophical acumen. Secondly, however, Professor Guicciardini supports his analysis with detailed historical scholarship. He discusses not only Newton’s explicit pronouncements about his philosophy, but also how Newton’s philosophy is revealed in Newton’s mathematical practice at the various stages of his long career. In addition, Professor Guicciardini compares and contrasts Newton’s philosophy of mathematics with that of his contemporaries such as Descartes and Leibniz.