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ROGER JOSEPH BOSCOVICH

ROGER JOSEPH BOSCOVICH

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Published by: cosmodot on Oct 13, 2008
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ROGER JOSEPH BOSCOVICH
S.J., F.R.S., 1711-1787Studies in His Life and Work on the 250
th
Anniversary of His Birth
Edited by LANCELOT LAW WHYTEPublished 1961 – Library of Congress Catalog Card #63-21822
Jacket notes: 
The extraordinary career of Fr. Boscovich has long deserved the extended treatment now accorded him in this volume in which an international group of scientists tell of this 18
th
century Jugoslav Jesuit who distinguished himself in literary, scientific and diplomaticcircles of all Europe. He was a mathematician, physicist, astronomer, geodesist, engineerand architect as well as poet, diplomatist, social figure and much-traveled personality. Hecombined Roman subtlety with Serb vigor, and Slavonic intensity of imagination with Western logical precision. He published about a hundred books and papers, of which deLalande, the French astronomer said, “His
magnum opus
, his
Theoria,
endeavored to createa system of Natural Philosophy reducing to a single law all the forces of nature.” The work  was the first general mathematical theory of atomism and made its author famous when itappeared in 1758. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was lionized in London,Oxford and Cambridge; he became a corresponding member of the French
 Academie.
He was consulted by Pope Benedict XIV about the cracks in the Dome of St.Peter’s andrecommended the circling of the cupola with five iron rings which allayed the fears of thecollapse of Michaelangelo’s masterpiece.This volume contains an extended biographical essay, two essays on his atomism, one on thephilosophical and historical aspects of his ideas, the other a detailed analysis of the originand arguments of the
Theoria.
Other papers describe his influence on Faraday, Priestley and Davy, and of the field in which he was a master: applied mathematics and the theory,design and use of optical instruments; the volume concludes with an analysis of Boscovich’scontribution to the theory of the combination of observations—a fitting tribute from Dr.Churchill Eisenhart, Chief, Statistical Laboratory, Bureau of Standards, Washington. D.C.
(---End of Jacket Notes.)
Foreword by SIR HAROLD HARTLEY G.C.V.O., F.R.S.For many of us Boscovich hitherto has been a shadowy figure that we have metflitting through the history of atomism with his famous curve. We knew of his influence onFaraday and of Kelvin’s flirtation with his theory, finally describing his assumptions as‘Boscovichianism pure and simple’. The obstacles in the way of a better appreciation of him were the absence of any biography in the English language and the formidable size andscarcity of the only translation of the
Theoria
, itself a very rare book. Now, at long last,thanks to the devotion of Mr. Lancelot Whyte and the studies of his colleagues, we can readthe life history of this brilliant polymath and Jesuit diplomat whose political activities took him to many of the European capitals in the troubled years of the War of the AustrianSuccessions and the Even Years War between Britain and France. This volume of essayscomes most appropriately to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of the
Theoria
,Boscovich’s definitive work but by no means his only claim to fame.Professor Elizabeth Hill’s biographical essay gives us a fascinating picture of the educationand novitiate at Rome in the stern régime of the Jesuit Order of the brilliant boy fromRagusa, as his birthplace was known to use before nationalism changed its name to
 
Dubrovnik. Equally gifted as a latinist and a mathematician, the darling of intellectualsociety, and, as Professor Hill admits, a little of a snob, Boscovich’s eminence as a scholarand his adroit manœuvres were employed in many diplomatic missions, the first on behalf of the Republic of Russia, which he never revisited. However, Boscovich never allowed thesepreoccupations to interfere with his work as a scientist and the essays in this volume show the diversity and significance of his contributions to geometry, astronomy, hydrography,instrumentation and statistics, in addition to ‘his great attempt to understand the structureof the universe in terms of a single idea’. His advice, too, was sought and taken onengineering problems, the draining of the Pontine marshes and the stability of the dome of Sr. Peter’s.Historically one of the main interests of these essays is the help they give us in evaluatingthe influence of Boscovich on scientific thought, particularly through the
Theoria.
As theauthors point out his influence was felt particularly by British scientists. There will probably  be general agreement that his influence on Faraday and through Faraday on Clerk Maxwellaffected the whole trend of physical theory in the nineteenth century. His influence onchemistry is a more open question. As Mr. Whyte points out there were two schools of thought in atomic ideas—naïve atomism and point atomism. Professor Pearce Williams inhis stimulating essay reminds us that Thomas Thompson lost his enthusiasm for pointatoms in the third edition of his textbook in favour of Dalton’s naïve atoms. Davy seems tohave become an empiricist eschewing theory as was shown by his rejection of Herpath’spioneer paper on kinetic theory of gases in 1821. And some may argue that structuralchemistry, despite all the various hypotheses of chemists, was in fact the empirical outcomeof their continuous discoveries of new organic compounds until the comparison of theircompositions revealed certain underlying regularities. William Odling, one of the mainprotagonists of chemical theory in the 1850’s, often told me that the chemists of his day wereinfluenced only by chemical arguments and not by physical evidence until Cannizzaro’s greatessay of 1858. Be that as it may, all the authors of this volume of essays will have earned thegratitude of English speaking scientists by giving us for the first time this most enlighteningpicture of Father Boscovich which establishes his position as one of the great intellectualfigures of all ages.
2
 
 
CONTENTSFOREWORDSir Harold Hartley, F.R.S. page 7EDITORIAL NOTELancelot Law Whyte 131.BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAElizabeth Hill,
 Professor of Slavonic Studies, California
172.BOSCOVICH’S ATOMISMLancelot Law Whyte 102
3.
BOSCOVICH’S
Theoria
Zeljko Ma
rković
,
 Professor of Faculty of Sciences, Zagreb; Secretary of Math. Phys. Section of Academy
1274.BOSCOVICH AND THE BRITISH CHEMISTSL. Pearce Williams,
 Asst. Professor, History of Science, Cornell 
1535.BOSCOVICH AND PRIESTLEY’S THEORY OF MATTERobert E. Schofield,
 Assoc. Professor, History of Science,Case Institute of Technology, Cleveland 
1686.THE CONTRIBUTION OF BOSCOVICH TO ASTRONOMY  AND GEODESY Zdenek Kopal,
 Professor of Astronomy, Manchester
1737.BOSCOVICH’S MATHEMATICSJ.F. Scott,
 Ph.D, St. Mary’s College, London
1838.BOSCOVICH’S OPTICS AND DESIGN OF INSTRUMENTSC.A. Ronan,
 formerly Secretariat, Royal Society, London
1939.BOSCOVICH AND THE COMBINATION OF OBSERVATIONSChurchill Eisenhart, Ph.D, Chief, Statistical EngineeringLaboratory, Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C. 200 
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