Newton's laws of motion and their associated definitions encountered their first difficulty near the middle of the nineteenth century.
Newton had designed his theory to describe the behavior of matter in space and time by inventing a relationship between the force on a body and the resulting change in motion of the body. Such a description of nature came to be called mechanical, and a large part of physicists' efforts were directed toward reducing all aspects of physics to mechanics. These efforts were rewarded magnificently in the fields of heat, electricity, and sound, in addition to astronomy and other more obviously mechanical areas. But they were far short of success in describing the various phenomena of light. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "1. The Problem. Pt. XX: Meaning in the Physical Sciences." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 2-7.