Kinetic Energy - History and Etymology

History and Etymology

The adjective kinetic has its roots in the Greek word κίνησις (kinesis) meaning motion. The dichotomy between kinetic energy and potential energy can be traced back to Aristotle's concepts of actuality and potentiality.

The principle in classical mechanics that E ∝ mv² was first developed by Gottfried Leibniz and Johann Bernoulli, who described kinetic energy as the living force, vis viva. Willem 's Gravesande of the Netherlands provided experimental evidence of this relationship. By dropping weights from different heights into a block of clay, Willem 's Gravesande determined that their penetration depth was proportional to the square of their impact speed. Émilie du Châtelet recognized the implications of the experiment and published an explanation.

The terms kinetic energy and work in their present official scientific meanings date back to the mid-19th century. Early understandings of these ideas can be attributed to Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis, who in 1829 published the paper titled Du Calcul de l'Effet des Machines outlining the mathematics of kinetic energy. William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, is given the credit for coining the term "kinetic energy" c. 1849–51.

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