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The genesis of the Non-Linear Field Theories of Mechanics

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journal contribution
posted on 01.07.2002, 00:00 by Walter Noll

Clifford Truesdell was a singularity among all prominent scientist-scholars of the twentieth century. He believed that the pinnacle of civilization had been reached in the 18th century and that things have gone downhill ever since. He had no television set and no radio, and I doubt that he ever used a typewriter, let alone a computer. Many of the letters he sent me were written with a quill pen. (However, he did not reject such modern conveniences as flush toilets and air-conditioning.) He loved baroque music and did not care very much for what was composed later on. He owned very fine harpsichords and often invited masters of the instrument to play, often before a large audience, in his large home in Baltimore, which he called the "Palazetto". He collected art and antique furniture, mostly from the 18th century. He even often dressed in the manner of an 18th century gentleman. Most importantly, he admired the scientists of the 18th century and, above all, Leonhard Euler, whom he considered to be the greatest mathematician of all time. Actually, in the 18th century, mathematics and physics were not the separate specialties they are today, and the term "Natural Philosophy" was the term then used for the endeavor to understand nature by using mathematics as a conceptual tool. C.T. tried and succeeded to some extent in reviving this term. That is why this meeting is a Meeting of the Society for Natural Philosophy.




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