On Matter and Motion
Thomas K. Simpson
Originally published in the Great Ideas Today, 1986
The Great Ideas Today, an annual supplement to the Great Books of the Western World collection, was published by the Encyclopaedia Britanica from 1961 to 1998. John Van Doren, Editor
Maxwell’s little book Matter and Motion is of the sort that is easily overlooked. It is brief, modest, and admittedly "elementary"; at first scanning, it seems not to get very far with the subject of mechanics. There are few equations, it is not replete with illustrations or examples, and there are no worked problems. It is also well over a century out of date. In sum, then, it seems at best the kind of introductory text one might recommend to a beginner whose ultimate ambitions lay in other directions.