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In the Acta Eruditorum issue of May 1690, Jacob Bernoulli launches a challenge to the scientific community: “To find the curve shaped by a loose string freely hung from two fixed points.” And the mathematician from Basel adds: “I too assume that the string is a line which is easily flexible in all its parts.” Three men were in fact behind this challenge. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the founder of the Acta Eruditorum, who wished that the challenge might induce scientists to apply and develop the newly found calculus. Jacob Bernoulli who having read Leibniz’ article in 1687, had realized that, combined with Hooke’s law, calculus enabled specialists to treat continuous various phenomena such as flexibility of strings and elasticity of surfaces. The third man was the real inventor of the catenary problem, who also had solved it, he was Jacob’s younger brother and one time pupil, Johann Bernoulli. At that moment the brothers were still getting along; their famous quarrel was to start later. |

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Carvais, Robert (ed.) ; Guillerme, André (ed.) ; Nègre, Valérie (ed.) ; Sakarovitch, Joël (ed.) ; *"Nuts and Bolts of construction history, Culture, Technology and Society"*- p. 237-242 (ISBN : 978-2-7084-0929-3) |