Article ID: CBB001022006

From Classical to Voigt's Molecular Models in Elasticity (2010)


In the first decades of the nineteenth century the French mechanicians---Cauchy and Poisson amongst them---developed a theory of linear elasticity according to which matter is composed of material points. They believed that these points interact by means of opposite central forces, whose magnitude depends on the length of the segment joining the particles. This theory suggested that homogeneous isotropic materials were characterized by a unique elastic constant. Later experiments, however, showed that two elastic constants were necessary. These results undermined the corpuscular model of matter as well as the interpretation of elasticity in terms of central intermolecular actions. The continuous theory of Green, based on the postulate that a potential function exists, gained fresh consensus in light of these experiments. These opposite views continued throughout the nineteenth century until Woldemar Voigt proposed a molecular model confirmed by experiments. This article presents the theories of each of these scientists and describes the contrasting views of nineteenth-century mechanicians.

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Authors & Contributors
Katzir, Shaul
Dahan Dalmedico, Amy
Maas, A. J. P.
Schwinger, Julian
Cannell, Doris M.
Dyson, Freeman J.
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Physics in Perspective
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Pavia University Press
Philosophy of science
Cauchy, Augustin Louis
Poisson, Siméon Denis
Voigt, Woldemar
Curie, Pierre
Curie, Jacques
Kelvin, William Thomson, Baron
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
Great Britain
Universiteit van Amsterdam
Universität Göttingen
Académie des Sciences, Paris

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