Newton: A Very Short Introduction
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Newton's reputation was the subject of intense debate long before his death in 1727. While alive, numerous opponents sought to topple his theories, and his views on religion were considered by many to be unorthodox. For the vast majority of scholars, however, his groundbreaking approach to science overrode all else.
This book makes use of previously unpublished private writings and manuscript sources to present a concise exploration of the internal springs of Newton's complex character. Robert Iliffe describes Newton's studies in fields ranging from alchemy, physics, and mathematics, as well as his controversial religious beliefs, and concludes with a consideration of the legacy left after his demise. Newton will gratify readers who are interested in the real history behind one of the world's most legendary scientists.
referred to a battle between good and evil that had kicked off at the end of the 4th century. Key symbols and descriptions referred to speciﬁc periods when the true church was persecuted and the enemies of truth held sway or were conquered by the righteous. Indeed, certain approaches were so standard that – as in the case of the work of his Cambridge precursor, Joseph Mede – he held that he was building on their foundational ‘discoveries’. True to his own method, Newton was apparently able to
and the heavenly quintessence – then one arrived at the twelve basic gods that were common to all the ancient religions. Noah was Saturn and Janus, and had three sons. Newton followed other historians in adopting a ‘euhemerist’ approach by means of which pagan myths were held to refer to real people who had been deiﬁed by different nations under different names. Evidence for this included a similarity of names, and in particular the fact that the descriptions of their characters and deeds were
believe that the existence of this force had been demonstrated by Hauksbee’s experiments and argued that electricity was a basic force operating in many other phenomena. In the General Scholium, added to the 2nd edition of the Principia of 1713, he announced that there was ‘an exceedingly subtle but material’ ‘electric spirit’, which was hidden in ‘all gross bodies’, was highly active, and emitted light. 116 Recalling his account of electricity in the ‘Hypothesis’ four decades earlier, in
his discerning eye some few, simple & universal truths’, which he gradually extended ‘till he unfolded the œconomy of the macrocosm’. A godly child Some episodes were those common to any teenager in his village. 13 Playing philosophically Absorbed as he was in making his devices, the gifted country boy was a deeply unhappy youth. Late in May 1662 he recorded a list in shorthand of all the sins he had committed in the previous decade, and for a short time he noted down all the misdemeanours
stomach on his way to school. After lessons had ended he fought in the churchyard with his assailant, and although Newton ‘was not so lusty as his antagonist he had so much more spirit & resolution that he beat him till he declared he would ﬁght no more’. Later, the schoolmaster’s son goaded him into forcing his antagonist’s face into the side of the church. After this, Newton 14 strove to outdo his opponent in learning, not stopping until he had risen above him in the pecking order.