Vis viva dispute

In disputes, vis viva dispute or “vis viva controversy” was a 1686 to 1720s debate as to whether vis viva or momentum was conserved in the universe.

In 1620s, Rene Descartes published findings showing that momentum was conserved.

In 1686, Gottfried Leibniz, searching for some active principle that was conserved and kept the universe from running down and slowly coming to a halt, published “Brief Demonstration of a Notable Error of Descartes”, wherein he asserted that Descartes’ assertion that the “quantity of motion”, i.e. the product of the mass and simple speed (velocity), of an object, was the quantity that was conserved, and that the true quantity that was conserved was vis viva, i.e. the product of the mass and square of speed (velocity).

This sparked a debate that split scientists down the middle, the Leibnizians on one side and the Cartesians on another, that lasted form some five decades; the debate, supposedly, was never officially resolved, supposedly, until it became a mute issue when in the 1840s the conservation of energy usurped them both; which is another subject in and of itself, inclusive as to whether force or kraft was conserved (conservation of force) or whether energy was conserved (conservation of energy). [1]

1. Hankins, Thomas L. (1965). “Eighteenth-Century Attempts to Resolve the Vis Viva Controversy” (abs) (pg. 287), Isis, 56(3):281-97.

Further reading
● Iltis, Carolyn. (1971). “Leibniz and the Vis Viva Controversy” (abs), Isis, 62(1):21-35.
● Smith, George E. (2006). “The vis viva Dispute: a Controversy at the Dawn of Dynamics” (pdf), Physics Today, pgs. 31-36, Oct.

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