Replicating Mathematical Inventions: Galileo’s Compass, Its Instructions, Its Students
Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA

UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Replicating Mathematical Inventions: Galileo’s Compass, Its Instructions, Its Students

  • Author(s): Biagioli, Mario
  • et al.
Abstract

Abstract Questions about how closure is achieved in disputes involving new observational or experimental claims have highlighted the role of bodily knowledge possibly irreducible to written experimental protocols and instructions how to build and operate instruments. This essay asks similar questions about a scenario that is both related and significantly different: the replication of an invention, not of an observation or the instrument through which it produced. Furthermore, the machine considered here—Galileo’s compass or sector—was not a typical industrial invention (like a spinning jenny), but a mathematical invention (a calculator), that is, a machine that produces numbers, not yarn. This case study describes some of the similarities and differences between replicating experiments, traditional machines producing material outputs, and mathematical inventions yielding calculations or information. This comparison indicates that, as in other kinds of replication, the replication of mathematical inventions involves texts (the calculator’s instructions) but that in this case bodily knowledge cannot be properly described as either tacit or explicit. It rather takes the shape of memory—muscle memory—that may be recalled from reading the instructions.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View