Painting - Law of Motion (Galileo)

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Crockett Johnson based this painting on the discussion of motion along inclined planes by Galileo Galilee in his Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences (1638). Here Galileo showed that if from a fixed point straight lines be extended indefinitely downwards and a point be imagined to move along each line at a constant speed, all starting from the fixed point at the same time and moving with equal speeds, the locus of the moving points will be an expanding circle.
This painting shows four superimposed circles in various shades of gray, white and black. These circles all have a common point at the center top, and differ in radius. They are shaded into several regions which are divided by lines originating at the common point. The work has an orange background and a black wooden frame. It is probably based on a drawing in E. G. Valens, The Attractive Universe (1969). This volume is in Crockett Johnson's library, annotated on the page indicated.
The painting is #71 in the series. It is signed: CJ70.
References: Galileo Galilee, Dialog Concerning Two New Sciences, Third Day (Figure 59 in the Dover edition).
E. G. Valens, The Attractive Universe: Gravity and the Shape of Space, Cleveland and New York: World Publishing Company, 1969, p. 135.
Currently not on view
date made
Galilei, Galileo
Johnson, Crockett
Physical Description
masonite (substrate material)
wood (frame material)
overall: 62 cm x 62 cm x 4.5 cm; 24 7/16 in x 24 7/16 in x 1 3/4 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Ruth Krauss in memory of Crockett Johnson
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Crockett Johnson
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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