Asee peer logo

History And Trivia To Enliven Dynamics

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

What's New in Dynamics?

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.806.1 - 12.806.14



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Phillip Cornwell Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

visit author page

Phillip Cornwell is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1989 and his present interests include structural dynamics, structural health monitoring, and undergraduate engineering education. Dr. Cornwell has received an SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award in 1992 and at Rose-Hulman he has received the Dean’s Outstanding Teacher award in 2000 and the Board of Trustees Outstanding Scholar Award in 2001.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

History and Trivia to Enliven Dynamics Galileo was an excellent lute player. A quote about Gottfried Leibniz is: “It is rare to find learned men who are clean, do not stink and have a sense of humor.” Sir Isaac Newton was under 25 years old when he began making revolutionary advances in mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy. Leonard Euler had 13 children and was blind the last 17 years of his life. Blindness did not seem to hinder him in any way, however, since he produced almost half of his total works while he was completely blind. Students of dynamics will typically be familiar with the names of many of the historical figures critical to the development of dynamics, but be completely unaware of when they lived or what they actually contributed. This information, plus additional trivia, can be used to enliven dynamics and to keep students’ interest. The primary purpose of this paper is to provide short biographies of the major historical figures in the history of dynamics as a resource for mechanics educators. These short biographies contain not only information about when they lived and their contributions to dynamics, but also pieces of trivia, quotes about them or by them, and other interesting facts. Suggestions will be made as to how this material can be used in class, and survey results will be presented on how students felt about this material.


In many disciplines, architecture for example, students are typically taught about the history of their discipline. Engineers, however, are usually woefully uneducated about the history of their discipline. History, Ancient however, can be used to help students put faces to the names they hear when they study dynamics and can be useful in Aristotle engaging their interest and enlivening the subject. This is true of engineering design as well as engineering science. In this paper, a brief history of dynamics from Newton to Hamilton will be Galileo Galilei presented. This material can be used at the beginning of a lecture or sprinkled throughout to add some color to a lecture. The Direct Indirect reference used for much of this historical information is the Approach Approach wonderful first chapter of Fundamentals of Applied Dynamics by James Williams.1 The biographical information came primarily from a couple of great websites, The MacTutor History of - Newton - Leibniz 2 - Euler - John Bernoulli Mathematics Archive and Eric Weissteins’ World of Scientific 3 - D’Alembert Biography, both of which have huge collections of short - Euler biographies. - Lagrange - Hamilton Dynamics has evolved along two primary lines of thought, the direct approach and the indirect approach. Some of the main Figure 1 Two lines of thought when contributors to each approach are shown in Figure 1. solving dynamics problems

The direct approach, also called vectorial dynamics, has the following characteristics: Force and momentum are the primary parameters. Newton’s laws are considered directly, so we get vector equations.

Cornwell, P. (2007, June), History And Trivia To Enliven Dynamics Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1483

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015