Mathematics and Worldviews: Newtonianism and Probability in the 18th Century

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities


The works of Isaac Newton, and especially his Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, turned “mathematics” into one of the buzzwords of 18th century intellectual culture. Philosophers were forced to deal with mathematics on several levels and Newton’s mathematical methodology was seen as a salutary example of scientific investigation by his followers. Because of this, much can be learned about mathematics and worldviews by tracing Newton’s reputation through the century. This talk addresses three of the more prominent uses of Newton’s name throughout the 18th century, namely: (1) to refer to specific forms of scientific inquiry; (2) to attract audiences for the commercialization of natural knowledge; and (3) to denote various metaphysical views of nature that were inspired by Newton’s Principia.

Period13 Jun 2019

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • Title A Cultural History of Mathematics in the 18th Century
    Media name/outletEinstein Forum, Potsdam
    Media typeOther
    DescriptionIn the 18th century, the field of mathematics underwent profound changes. Nowhere is this more evident than in the algebraic foundation of differential calculus and its emergence as the leading mathematical discipline of the time. These and other developments propelled mathematics into new areas of application in the natural sciences and in technology—and into the public imagination more generally, as advanced mathematical concepts found their way into school curricula, philosophy, art, and literature. This symposium examines the multifarious ways in which mathematics shaped the cultural history of the era.
    PersonsJip Van Besouw


Title A Cultural History of Mathematics in the 18th Century
LocationEinstein Forum, Potsdam, Germany
Period13 Jun 2019 → 14 Jun 2019