When I search for the history of projectile motion, I mostly find outlines starting with Aristotle and discussing Ibn Sina, Tartaglia, Galileo, Newton, etc. and perhaps with a few more Europeans in the gaps.

Ibn Sina wasn't Western, but he was expanding on Aristotle's work.

Were there models of projectile motion essentially independent of that line of reasoning, for example Chinese or Indian models, in the time before Galileo's work spread to those places?

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    $\begingroup$ Short answer, no. Longer answer, the tradition of theoretical study appeared in ancient Greece and was transmitted through Rome and Byzantium to the Islamic Middle East and later Western Europe. Until the colonial period, other ("traditional") societies were, of course, familiar with arrows and even catapults, but had only practical knowledge of using them, such as aiming techniques, not any kind of discourse about trajectories. See e.g. Xiaodong's entry (ch. 10) in Transformation and Transmission volume. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Sep 20 at 0:46

1 Answer 1


Yes, but only intuitive ones that every saw as obvious and hence requiring as much comment as noticing that water was wet or that dropping a stone describes a straight line.

The essential characteristics of projectile motion is that it traces an arc. This is obvious from our knowledge of archery and spears. And this obviously goes back a long time - into prehistory.


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