Historical development of Newton's laws of motion and suggestions for teaching content

Wheijen Chang, Beverley Bell, Alister Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


A review of the history of Newton's Laws of Motion illustrates that the historical development gradually shifted away from intuitive experiences and daily life conventions towards a scientific regulated perspective. Three stages of the historical development are discussed, i.e. prior to the Principia, the 3rd (last) edition of the Principia, and the modern view developed during the 18th - 19th centuries. Four key terms are elaborated, i.e. Newton's 1st Law, inertia, force, and Newton's 2nd Law. Owing to the initiation of scientific tools and the on-going modifications of the meanings of the key terms, the modern view varies dramatically from Newton's perspective. Thus, it is suggested that teaching content should avoid directly translating from Newton's publications, and the modernized definitions of the key terms should be thoroughly informed, which includes initiation of new scientific tools, modification of the meanings of the key terms, and alteration of the causal relations among related variables.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 4
JournalAsia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Dec 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education

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