In 1853, William Rankine, in his “On the General Law of the Transformation of Energy”, introduced the term “potential energy”, as a terminological upgrade to the older terms: vis mortua (Leibniz, 1673), force morte (Diderot, 1769), or dead force.
In 1860s, the term potential energy, in respect to a body of some height above the earth, as follows:
where m is the mass of the body, g is the gravitational constant, and h is the height of the body above the surface of the earth.
- (a) Rankine, William. (1853). “On the General Law of the Transformation of Energy”, read before the Philosophical Society of Glasgow, Jan 5th; in Proceedings, 3(5).
(b) Rankine, William. (1872). Miscellaneous Scientific Papers Volume One (§11: pgs. 203-08, 229). Griffin, 1881.
- Potential energy – Hmolpedia 2020.