Mass, Speed, Direction: John Buridan’s 14th century concept of momentum

  • Article
  • 3 pages
  • Level: high school and above

This is a short discussion of John Buridan, a scholar at the University of Paris, who developed the concept of momentum centuries prior to Isaac Newton. This article by Christopher Graney appeared in The Physics Teacher in 2013. Graney writes:

In the 14th century the French thinker John Buridan developed a theory of motion that bears a strong resemblance to Newtonian momentum. Buridan’s ideas include a quantity of motion which is determined by an object’s mass, speed, and direction; in the absence of resistive effects, this quantity remains with the object. Buridan’s work is an interesting story in the history of physics. Buridan’s insights have value for introducing concepts of inertia and momentum to physics students.

Click here to access this article from The Physics Teacher.

Click here to access a free version of this article via ArXiv at Cornell University.