Some of my academic critics have crossed the line by belittling the achievements of Galileo and Newton.
They claim that Galileo did not understand the concept of “friction,” despite the indisputable fact that Galileo abstracted from the effects of friction in order to discover his laws of motion. Furthermore, Galileo made an original discovery about friction. He was the first to realize that bodies falling through a resistive medium reach a terminal speed, and this happens because the frictional force is proportional to speed and therefore this force increases until it equals the weight of the falling body. How could he reach such a generalization without the idea of friction?
The attack on Newton claims that he didn’t understand the concepts of “inertia,” “acceleration,” and “momentum.” Allegedly, he was still in the grip of the medieval concept of “impetus.” In contrast to the medieval thinkers, however, Newton was able to calculate — in one case after another — motions and the effects of such motions. In some of his calculations, he symbolized “acceleration” by a “v” with a dot over it, and the dot indicates a time derivative. If he could symbolize and calculate acceleration, in what sense does he not have the idea?
Such people cannot possibly have studied the mathematics of Galileo and Newton.
As to my personal reaction, I’ll paraphrase Jack Nicholson in the movie A Few Good Men:
“I don’t want money and I don’t want fame. What I do want is for academics to stand there in their girlie graduate gowns and extend to Galileo and Newton some freakin’ respect.”