The first laws of mechanics were formulated by Archimedes (Syracuse, 287 – 212 BC) and regard centres of gravity and levers, and the buoyancy of solid bodies in fluids.

In the 16th and 17th centuries mechanics played an important role in the Scientific Revolution, ushering in the era of modern science. The method of scientific experimentation introduced by Galileo Galilei (Pisa, 1564 – Arcetri, 1642), applied to the study of falling bodies, was based on the reproducibility of phenomena, measurement of distances and times, the confirmation of hypotheses and the formulation of mathematical laws: this was the language spoken by Nature.

The laws of motion were expressed in rigorous mathematical form by Isaac Newton (Woolsthorpe Manor, 1642 – Kensington, 1727) in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687 – which also contained the law of universal gravitation. These determine the movement of all bodies on the Earth, and of the planets around the Sun.

Mechanical devices – such as levers, pulleys, wooden guides for the study of motion, built following the models devised in the first half of the 18th century by the great English, French and Dutch popularizing scientists – later facilitated public understanding of the laws of statics, kinematics and dynamics, by then well established. Such apparatus formed the earliest equipment of teaching laboratories such as the Collegio Mariano Physics Cabinet.