FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST VERBAL FORMULATION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF LEAST ACTION, also known as the Maupertuis Principle. French mathematician Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698–1759) was the first to propose the principle of least action for light, as the result that minimizes the integral of the speed over the path taken. Maupertuis felt confident in this proposal because he found that it produces the same result as Snell’s law (the ratios of the sines of the angle of incidence and refraction are the same as the ratio of the speeds of light in the material).
Maupertuis first stated his proposal in a presentation to the French Academy of Sciences titled “Accord de différentes loix de la nature qui avoient jusqu’ici paru incompatibles” or “Accord between different laws of Nature that seemed incompatible” (Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences Année 1744 pp. 417–426, 1748). In his paper, Maupertuis proposed a general idea that is even more important than the specifics of the principle: “Nature, in making its effects, always acts by the simplest means possible.”
Maupertuis had previously presented a paper to the Paris Academy of Sciences titled “La Loi du repos des corps” or “Law of Bodies at Rest” (which we also offer) (Memoires de l'Academie Royale des Sciences Annee 1740 pp. 170–176, 1742), in which he proposed the conditions required for a system of bodies to remain at rest: “If there is one constant force on all the masses, and its center is at an infinite distance from the system, the center of gravity of the system must be as far as possible from, or as near as possible to, this center, for equilibrium to subsist.”. Item #520
CONDITION & DETAILS: Paris: De L’imprimerie Royale. Not ex-libris. 4to (10.25 x 8; 256 x 200mm). , 552, . 1 Frontispiece. 18 copperplates engravings and in-text illustrations throughout (including the Maupertuis paper). Handsomely bound in full calf. 5 raised bands at the spine, elaborately gilt-tooled in the compartments. 2 gilt-lettered, maroon morocco spine labels. Solidly and very tightly bound. Marbled endpapers. Bright and very clean throughout. Fine condition.