From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 [gcide]:
Note: The names sciences ending in ics, as mathematics, mechanics, metaphysics, optics, etc., are, with respect to their form, nouns in the plural number. The plural form was probably introduced to mark the complex nature of such sciences; and it may have been in imitation of the use of the Greek plurals ?, ?, ?, ?, etc., to designate parts of Aristotle's writings. Previously to the present century, nouns ending in ics were construed with a verb or a pronoun in the plural; but it is now generally considered preferable to treat them as singular. In Greman we have die Mathematik, die Mechanik, etc., and in French la metaphysique, la optique, etc., corresponding to our mathematics, mechanics, metaphysics, optics, etc.
Mechanics, like pure mathematics, may be geometrical, or may be analytical; that is, it may treat space either by a direct consideration of its properties, or by a symbolical representation. --Whewell.
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