Sophie (alias_sqbr) wrote in little_details,

Gravity before newton

Setting: Misc fantasy countries based off real ones, including 1600ish europe (england, netherlands, and eastern russia) and 300AD-ish (Gupta era) India

Search terms used: Wiki pages for Kepler, newton & galileo, googling their names with "gravity", skimming their works online. Misc histories of science. Have also read a bit about Gupta science on wikipedia and in a book about Indian religion.

I'm trying to figure out how my characters would view gravity. The education level varies from astronomer to fisherman. They discover the existence of other worlds, some with different gravity, and while I know this would mess with their heads I'm trying to figure out how :)

First, gravity on earth, ie "what goes up must come down". I have a feeling Newton is the one who coined the term gravity (it's referred to by name in the translation I read but it's not like I'm going to read the original latin) so how did people refer to it before then? I remember reading somewhere that the church took the stance that we were all drawn to the centre of the earth because it was the the centre of ther universe, so my european astronomer would presumably see it that way, but what about an indian astronomer? What about everyday uneducated people, would they be aware of this theory? How did they see things?

Second: Gravity in space. The only reference I've seen pre-Newton to the concept of "the force which draws the earth to the sun" is in the heliocentric views of Kepler. Afaict pre-Kepler atronomers believed the sun, planets etc were attached to giant rotating spheres. Was this still true of earth-centric astronomers post-Kepler/pre-Newton? What about the heliocentric (or otherwise) indian astronomers, how did they think the solar system worked? (I assume the non-astronomers wouldn't be very concerned with this stuff)

Sorry, I realise this is all very specific and obscure so will understand if noone can help. Why I feel the need to get this stuff right when so many aspects are totally outlandish fantasy I'm not sure I can explain.

Educated guesses as to how the characters would react to the situation would be welcome too! I'm looking forward to writing the scene where the earth centred astronomer meets a heliocentric astronomer from what is clearly another world and tries to reconcile this with the "all objects are drawn to the centre of the universe" theory :)
Tags: 1600-1699, ~science: physics

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