Slugger O'Toole

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“You can see Newton’s mind at work…”

Mon 12 December 2011, 2:56pm

To add to the open access treasure trove at the Royal Society, Cambridge University Library is putting online some of its collection of books, maps, manuscripts and journals.

We have called the first phase of our work on the Cambridge Digital Library the Foundations Project, which runs from mid-2010 to mid-2013 and has been made possible through a lead gift of £1.5m by Dr Leonard Polonsky. This generous support will enable the Library to develop its technical infrastructure and create significant content in the areas of faith and science – two areas of particular strength within our collections.

And they’re starting with the library’s collection of the scientific papers of Isaac Newton (1642-1727).  As the Guardian reports

So far, more than 4,000 pages, about 20% of the university’s Newton archive, have been put into digital form as part of a programme that will eventually give the public access to the papers of other famous scientists, ranging from Darwin to Ernest Rutherford. Included in the papers are the handwritten notes made after Newton’s death, in 1727, by his colleague Thomas Pellet, who was asked by relatives of the great scientist to examine the papers with a view to publication.

Pellet’s dismissive note, saying “Not fit to be printed”, can be seen on some pages – which are now, inevitably, among those most closely studied. It is thought Pellet was attempting to censor some of Newton’s more juvenile calculations and, more urgently, stifle his unorthodox religious views.

Grant Young, the university library’s digitisation manager, said: “You can see Newton’s mind at work in the calculations and how his thinking was developing. His copy of the Principia contains pages interleaved with the printed text with his notes.”

You can browse the Sir Isaac Newton’s copy of Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica here.

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Comments (13)

  1. joeCanuck (profile) says:

    Pete,

    It might appear from the number of comments that nobody is interested in some of your scientific blogs.
    I am very much interested and love the links even though I might not comment. I hope you keep writing them.

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  2. sliabhluachra (profile) black spot says:

    Newton was a very odd fellow. He wrote much more on alchemy than he did on physics and he was a heretic to Anglicanism, even though he snubbed his nose at them, mostly covertly but overtly on his death bed.
    Newton wrote his Principia in Latin so the vulgari would not understand it; it remains one of the great unread books of history. I gave my copy away recently. Leibnitz was much better.
    He was also a horrible man as his anti dwarfism quip on the English £2 coin shows. Even that wanna be Delphic oracle, Hawking, saw that.
    I like the thread that condemns Newton’s occult science and praises the openness and sheer humanity of Leibnitz.
    Then we have the Masonic link with King Billy of The Boyle fame.
    A good kiss n tell on Newton could be a good read. I wonder did Pellet object to the “attention” Taylor and others got. Who knows? Still, Newton is an interesting odd ball.

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  3. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    sliabhluachra

    Newton, more than anyone, embodied the Royal Society’s motto Nullis in Verba.

    “He wrote much more on alchemy than he did on physics and he was a heretic to Anglicanism…”

    True, but his alchemy was a fore-runner of modern chemistry. He also tried his hand at prophecy. And his work at the Royal Mint was much more important than his alchemical writings. He was also a friend and correspondent of the philosopher John Locke.

    “Newton wrote his Principia in Latin so the vulgari would not understand it”

    No. The publication in Latin was because that was the lingua franca of natural philosophy at the time.

    “Leibnitz was much better.”

    Leibnitz did develop calculus at the same time, and used notation that is now in common use, but he did have access to some of Newton’s early ideas on the subject. And he was a bit of a dilettante.

    “He was also a horrible man as his anti dwarfism quip on the English £2 coin shows.”

    The “Standing on the shoulders of giants” quote has often been, deliberately in some cases, mis-represented.

    Not that he wasn’t a bitter rival of Robert Hooke. Far from it.

    “Then we have the Masonic link with King Billy of The Boyle fame.”

    Now you’re just being silly.

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  4. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    True, but his [Newton's] alchemy was a fore-runner of modern chemistry

    That is if one considers homeopathy to be the.zenith of modern chemistry.

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  5. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    Just a little reference to titillate:

    Alchemy and Alternative Medicine

    Along with psycho-spiritual growth, and physical transmutation, alchemy has long been associated with creating cures for ‘incurable diseases’ as well as near physical immortality. Dubuis has suggested that a carefully prepared tincture, or alchemically prepared medicine extracted with purified alcohol, made from acorns might prove useful in fighting cancer and some auto-immune diseases.

    However, at least one of the major contributions of alchemy to alternative medicine is a little more accessible than either of these, that is, homeopathy.

    Available in most drug stores and super markets, homeopathic medicines are based on the alchemical practices of the Swiss 16th century alchemist Paracelsus. However, it was not Paracelsus that created homeopathy, he only supplied the theory that “like cures like and that smaller doses of medicine could cure more easily and quickly than large doses. Alchemical tinctures, like homeopathic medicines, are created from plants, minerals, and metals. Homeopathic treatment was formulated in 1796 and introduced to the United States in 1825. In Europe alchemically prepared and homeopathic medicines are available to the general public.

    According to House, “For the genuine alchemists, healing, like alchemy, must be on all levels and treat the whole being or person, and within the context of nature and evolution. The intent of the healer must offer encouragement in the interior world of the patient and not work against nature’s plan of evolution. Like homeopathy, Bach Flower Remedies, or aromatherapy, alchemical medicines work on a subtle level and a crude one at the same time.

    Mark Stavish, M.A.

    For: Atlantis Rising Spring 1997
    Copyright 1997 Mark Stavish All Rights Reserved.
    (The Alchemy web site on Levity.com)

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  6. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    We all have vices … Stark with his Nazism, without whom we wouldn’t be able to surf the internet with fibre optic speed … Crick with his racist views, without whom we wouldn’t have DNA evidence to put people behind bars, Shockley another racist helped invent the transistor basically every electrical and electronic invention in the 20th century, Oppenheimer, Nobel perhaps for their influence, but lets remember and remember that dynamite was invented to control nitroglycerine in mining, preventing many accidental deaths, you use a SPECT scanner you have our favourite “destroyer of worlds” to thank for it. Oh let’s not forget the name of Raytheon is scorned from where I am in Derry, yet it was Dr. Percy Spencer from Raytheon who discovered the microwave … not just popcorn and food, but mobile phones, and certain radiotherapies.

    … of course conversley the great pacifist Einstein was a child-abandoning adulterer who married two of his cousins.

    Science is not judged by the morality of the scientist, but the quality of the scientific evidence. Finally let’s talk about Iasac’s vices, masonry and the occult perhaps, but documenting such work on classical mechanics, optics, gravitation, calculus etc. for generations to come. Centuries of physics textbooks, inspiring so many pioneers, doctors etc.

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  7. sliabhluachra (profile) black spot says:

    Pete Baker: The King Billy Masonic link is because of his appointment to the Royal Mint which made him flush with cash.
    The Royal Society, whose brightest star was Newton, was an odd group with very interesting beginnings in the English Civil War.
    As Leibnitz published first, Leibnitz would be today accepted as the grand papa of calculus.
    It was a turbulent time in England and no doubt many dark and sinister forces wanted to adopt or co-opt Newton.

    Future Physicist: You are, of course, corresct. But very many scientists have been amoral a$$hole$. Galileo was a case in point. And Newton seems to have been another.
    That said, I like Newton’s quip when the Tsar(ina?) invited him to St Petersburg. He said he had all he needed at Oxbridge. books, alchemy and of course, geniuses like Taylor.

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  8. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    “Crick with his racist views, without whom we wouldn’t have DNA evidence to put people behind bars”

    Surely, Future Physicist, you do not consider this application of the use of DNA to be its major societal benefit any more than judicial (or indeed, auto-erotic) hanging was the greatest boon to be had from Belfast’s ropemaking industry ?

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  9. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    “That is if one considers homeopathy to be the.zenith of modern chemistry.”

    Don’t be stupid, Rory.

    “Just a little reference to titillate”

    Newton ain’t Paracelsus. And Paracelsus ain’t Stavish.

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  10. sliabhluachra (profile) black spot says:

    Future Physicist

    Interesting and important points about Einstein who is often held up as an oracle. Good guy to have beside you in the Physics class but not so good in the match making class.

    I guess the Crick replies were tongue in cheek. The Nazis, of course, had some great physicists working for them, many of whom were subsequently kidnapped by the Americans.
    I do not think odd ball Newton can be called the father of Chemistry. Irish man Robert Boyle would be in the running, as would de Lavoisier, who was executed by the French Republican idiots during the Reign of Terror. La Place said it took five minutes to kill him but France would only produce a head like that once every 5600 years. Republicans and their “contributions” to science:(

    Newton as a heretic to Anglicanism should not have been buried at Westminster and nor should Darwin, who asked to be buried elsewhere. But opportunism over rode all.

    Keynes called Newton the last of the magicians and Weinberg makes a similar point. Indeed, Weinber’s essay on Kuhn’s balderdash should be compulsory reading

    Regarding the original post . it has two components to my mind: the rather boring digitisation of material and the much more interesting one of “mad scientists”.

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  11. joeCanuck (profile) says:

    I guess man playing doesn’t apply to dead scientists :-)
    Newton was a genius in separate though frequently interconnected fields.

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  12. latcheeco (profile) says:

    “Pete,
    It might appear from the number of comments that nobody is interested in some of your scientific blogs.
    I am very much interested and love the links even though I might not comment. I hope you keep writing them.”

    Agreed Joe,
    More often than not they’re the only thing on Slugger worth reading. Now what was that you were saying Pete, something abouts apples, fivers, and laputans.

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  13. From the headline, I thought it was about Newton Emerson.

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