At least Newton realized that the motion of the Moon on the heaven and the motion of an apple on the earth are governed by the same law.

But who first proposed that the same laws should hold everywhere, regardless of the distance from us?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This was realized gradually, beginning from Galileo. Galileo conjectured this when we observed that the Moon "looks like Earth", has mountains and valleys etc. But he could not state the exact laws of motion. So the idea evolved, until it was finally confirmed by Newton. $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Sep 8 '18 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ The Greek atomists, of course. And later much depends on how geometry is viewed. Aristotle divided the universe into 2 separate realms - an ideological move which after a millenium the scholastics took for truth. $\endgroup$ – sand1 Sep 8 '18 at 17:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is not a historically sound question, like most "who first proposed?" questions are. The modern idea of "laws" emerged together with the idea of their universality after Copernicus, but in restrospect said universalism can be ascribed to Greek atomists, or even to Vedic schools with their nirvana. Nobody was first. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Sep 10 '18 at 0:27


John Philoponus, "The Grammarian," who lived in the late 5th – 2nd ½ of 6th century A.D., argued that the sun is fire and of terrestrial-like, corruptible matter.

From his Dictionary of Scientific Biography entry:

Philoponus’ main significance for the history of science lies in his being, at the close of antiquity, the first thinker to undertake a comprehensive and massive attack on the principal tenets of Aristotle’s physics and cosmology, an attack unequaled in thoroughness until Galileo.

Philoponus is certainly one of the "grands génies de l'Antiquité" ("great geniuses of Antiquity") and "principaux précurseurs de la Science moderne" ("principle precursers to modern Science"), as Pierre Duhem wrote in his magisterial, 10 volume work in the history of medieval physics:

partially translated in:

cf. also:


Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.