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    “The curious ways to observe weight in Water”: Thomas Harriot and his experiments on specific gravity

    Clucas, Stephen (2020) “The curious ways to observe weight in Water”: Thomas Harriot and his experiments on specific gravity. Early Science and Medicine 25 (4), pp. 302-327. ISSN 1383-7427 Online.

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    This paper explores the experiments of the English mathematician Thomas Harriot (1560-1621) on specific gravity in the years 1600-1605, as recorded in a series of manuscript notes in British Library Add. MS 6788. It examines the programme of reading undertaken by Harriot before (or during) these experiments (including works by Jean Bodin, Giovanni Battista della Porta, Gerard de Malynes, Gaston du Clo, and Juan Bautista Villalpando), and describes a series of experiments conducted by him which compared the weight of a wide variety of substances in air and water. Harriot’s work is compared to that of his contemporary Marino Ghetaldi (1568-1626) in Promotus Archimedis (1603), and the work of both mathematicians is positioned in the context of sixteenth-century mathematical responses to the famous problem posed by Hiero, King of Syracuse to Archimedes (as related by Vitruvius). Harriot’s use of proportional mathematics (especially the “rule of alligation”) in his experimental work and his application of this technique to problems in the alloying of metal and chymical analysis is examined in detail.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): specific gravity, experiment, alligation, Thomas Harriot, chemical analysis
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Stephen Clucas
    Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2020 11:06
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:49


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