I am a math student and I have been self studying physics lately. I am going to take a course on electromagnetism this year, so I searched for books that are mathematically rigorous on that topic. And I found some good ones, but none of them explain where did Coloumb's Law came from, it's taken as a fact, as an axiom, and it doesn't explain how it was deducted. I know that experiments lead to the formulation of this law, but what experiments? What was the reasoning that lead to the law? What is the history of the topic, and why no one stated the law before, knowing that there were many experiments in the 18th century?

This is not exclusive to books on electromagnetism, I also found that problem in every book I read about Newtonian Mechanics. The basic laws of the topic are taken as a fact and all the theory is derived from them without explaining why is the law true. And I find that frustrating. I want to know how those laws were deducted. After all, physics is based on experiments, but the books I have read almost never mention an experiment.

So my question is, is there a book, or any other media, that focuses on how were the laws deducted, the experiments, the history of the topic and the people that contributed to it?

PS: Sorry for my bad English, I'm still learning.


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closed as too broad by Emilio Pisanty, Qmechanic Feb 28 '18 at 17:21

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  • $\begingroup$ For a good explanation of the early experiments that led to the laws of electromagnetism, (as well as a generally fantastic EM book), I recommend Purcell's book. $\endgroup$ – roymend Feb 28 '18 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ The History of Science and Mathematics might be a good place to peruse. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Feb 28 '18 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ axioms, postulates and principles are distilation of observations. Once used as extra axioms for picking the subset of mathematical solutions for a given physics model , and the model is successful in describing data and predicting results for new setups, there is no questioning the "laws.." ( Although some laws may be emergent from underlying levels , studied later, as thermodynamic ones from statistical mechanics ones.) $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 28 '18 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ even wikipedia has a history paragraph for gravitation. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… also in coulomb's law en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coulomb%27s_law#History $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 28 '18 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ "I searched for books that didn't have X, but I'm rather disappointed that they don't have X" is an odd thing to complain about. If you want a textbook that explains the historical and empirical origin of the different laws, a mathematically-rigorous textbook is probably the last place you should be looking in. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 28 '18 at 16:49

Augustin Coulomb (1738-1806) obtained in 1785 the law of force between two bodies electrified with charges $q$ and $q′$ separated by a distance $r$ which was large compared with the diameters of the bodies. He presented his results in two papers of 1785, published in 1788.




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