Massa inerziale e gravitazionale: aspetti storici e didattici
In the study of Mechanics, both at secondary school and university levels, the conceptual distinction between inertial and gravitational mass is often hurriedly discussed with the aim of unifying the two quantities as soon as possible. Fundamental contributions to the clarification of the distinction between the two quantities and to increasing the accuracy of the experiments to check their proportionality were given by great physicists as Newton and Einstein, and as Eotvos, Dicke and Braginskii. The present paper contains some historical considerations about the concepts of inertial and gravitational mass, with particular attention to the work of Newton, Eotvos and Dicke. The results of a study carried out at the University of Bologna on physics students’ understanding of the concepts of inertial and gravitational mass are also presented. The content of this paper is part of the author’s dissertation thesis in Physics.