As a chemist we never really use classical mechanics much instead favouring a quantum description of the world around us. I have been lectured plenty on the origins of quantum mechanics and how the early pioneers forged away to develop ultimately quantum field theory. However I have very little idea about the analogous timeline of classical mechanics!

As such I will list my understanding but would love it if someone could fill in the blanks! (I'm starting at Newton and after more modern scientists :)

1) Newton

2) d'Alembert

3) Lagrange

4) Hamilton

5) Poisson

6) Liouville

7) Poincare

8) Noether

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    $\begingroup$ I ordered your names chronologically, for convenience $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko Lagrange and Newton are supposed to have the same number, right? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE 226868 I do not understand your question. What is the meaning of these numbers? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko I meant that Lagrange and Newton both were next to a '4', implying that they worked in the same time period (i.e. at the same point in chronological order). It doesn't matter now, though, because you fixed it. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE 226868: Lagrange and Newton did not work at the same time. Lagrange was born 10 years after the death of Newton. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 19 at 12:41

1 Answer 1


Here are some crucial contributors that are missing:

Archimedes (statics, including hydrostatics)

Stevin (Guido Jorg suggestion)

Galileo (relativity principle, pendulum, falling bodies etc.)

Huygens (pendulum, oscillations, Huygens principle)

Hooke (Hooke's Law, Inverse squares law)

Daniel Bernoulli (hydrodynamics)

Clairaut (perturbation methods, figures of equilibrium)

Euler (contributed to almost everything, motion of rigid bodies, for example, Euler-Lagrange equations, perturbation theory)

Laplace (celestial mechanics)

Jacobi (integrable systems)

Lindstedt (perturbation methods)

Hill (perturbation methods)

Lyapunov (stability, figures of equilibrium)

Birkhoff (closed orbits, ergodic theory)

Fatou, Bogolyubov, Krylov ("non-linear mechanics")

von Neumann (ergodic theory)

Siegel (stability)

Kolmogorov, Arnold, Moser (KAM theory)

I omitted: statistical mechanics (which is also mechanics!), most of the fluid mechanics after Archimedes and Bernoulli) and relativistic mechanics.

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    $\begingroup$ Some more: stevinus (quite a few discoveries), spinoza+leibnitz (elasticity), cauchy (like Euler, contributed to almost everything in mechanics), clifford+gibbs (formulism of mechanics) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ wow a brilliant list! thank you very much :) $\endgroup$
    – RedPen
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Guido Jorg: I agree about Stevin. What Spinosa contributed?? Benedict Spinosa? Have never heard of his contribution to physics or mathematics. Can you give a reference? About Clifford and Cauchy I also did not know. What did they contribute? And Gibbs is associated with statistical mechanics (which I omitted). $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Guido Jorg: Why don't you write your own answer, complementing the list, with a brief indication what exactly these people contributed to mechanics. Very interesting! $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe Buridan and Oresme for Middle Ages? From Islamic world maybe Ibn Sina? Also where is Kepler? $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Commented Feb 19 at 10:57

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