Book III concerns the "System of the World, that is, the sun, the planets and their moons, and certain comets. In it Newton attempted to show that his law of universal gravitation sufficed to explain in detail the phenomena of celestial mechanics. Since the mathematical structure presented in Book I was insufficient to treat a universe containing more than two bodies, Newton had to resort here to approximations of various sorts. Here, too, he showed himself a consummate master of mathematics and of ingenious guessing. (Clifford Truesdell 1968).

I am puzzled of how rendering in French the sentence in bold.

Google translate gives:

Là aussi, il se montra un maître accompli en mathématiques et en devinettes ingénieuses.

DeepL gives a similar interpretation.

But I am wondering if devinette renders correctly the sense of guessing in this context.

2 Answers 2


Rapporté à ce que Newton a fait, je traduirais sans la moindre hésitation guessing par conjecture.

C'est peut-être pour ingenious que j'hésiterais entre :

  • astucieuse (il a fait quelques approximations)
  • judicieuse (bien vues)

Après... dans un bouquin tout public... je changerais certainement conjecture astucieuse par... intuition.


I have the same hesitation and it starts with the original (guessing), which I find rather wanting in the light of the intellectual task considered. That's why, even though a little infringement with respect to the obligation to remain faithful to the author's words, a translation such as the following, it seems to me, would put the context back, at least as far as the French point of view goes, into a more exact perspective.

Là aussi, il se montra un maître accompli en mathématiques et dans l'art de la spéculation scientifique.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.