Electronic edition published by Cultural Heritage Langauge Technologies (with permission from Charles Scribners and Sons) and funded by the National Science Foundation International Digital Libraries Program. This text has been proofread to a low degree of accuracy. It was converted to electronic form using data entry.
NEWTON, ISAAC (b. Woolsthorpe, England,
25 December 1642; d. London, England, 20 March
1727), mathematics, dynamics, celestial mechanics,
astronomy, optics, natural philosophy.
On Newton's reputation and influence (notably in the
eighteenth century), see Hélène Metzger, Newton, Stahl,
Boerhaave et la doctrine chimique (Paris, 1930), and
Attraction universelle et religion naturelle chez quelques
commentateurs anglais de Newton (Paris, 1938); Pierre
Brunet, L'introduction des théories de Newton en France au
XVIIIe siècle, I, Avant 1738 (Paris, 1931);
Nicolson, Newton Demands the Muse, Newton's Opticks
and the Eighteenth Century Poets (Princeton, 1946); I. B.
Cohen, Franklin and Newton, an Inquiry Into Speculative
Newtonian Experimental Science ... (Philadelphia, 1956;
Cambridge, Mass., 1966; rev. repr. 1974); Henry Guerlac,
“Where the Statue Stood: Divergent Loyalties to Newton
in the Eighteenth Century,” in Earl R. Wasserman, ed.,
Aspects of the Eighteenth Century (Baltimore, 1965),
pp. 317-334; R. E. Schofield, Mechanism and Materialism,
British Natural Philosophy in an Age of Reason (Princeton,
1970); Paolo Casini, L'universo-macchina, origini della
filosofia newtoniana (Bari, 1969); and Arnold Thackray,
Atoms and Powers, an Essay in Newtonian Matter-Theory
and the Development of Chemistry (Cambridge, Mass.,
1970). Still of value today are three major eighteenth-century
expositions of the Newtonian natural philosophy,
by Henry Pemberton, Voltaire, and Colin Maclaurin.
Whoever studies any of Newton's mathematical or
scientific writings would be well advised to consult J. A.
Lohne, “The Increasing Corruption of Newton's Diagrams,”
in History of Science, 6 (1967), 69-89.
Newton's MSS comprise some 20-25 million words;
most of them have never been studied fully, and some are
currently “lost,” having been dispersed at the Sotheby
sale in 1936. Among the areas in which there is a great
need for editing of MSS and research are Newton's studies
of lunar motions (chiefly U.L.C. MS Add. 3966); his work
in optics (chiefly U.L.C. MS Add. 3970; plus other MSS
such as notebooks, etc.); and the technical innovations he
proposed for the Principia in the 1690's (chiefly U.L.C. MS
Add. 3965); see (4), (7). It would be further valuable to
have full annotated editions of his early notebooks and
of some major alchemical notes and writings.
Some recent Newtonian publications include Valentin
Boss, Newton and Russia, the Early Influence 1698-1796
(Cambridge, Mass., 1972); Klaus-Dietwardt Buchholtz,
Isaac Newton als Theologe (Wittenburg, 1965); Mary S.
Churchill, “The Seven Chapters With Explanatory Notes,”
in Chymia, 12 (1967), 27-57, the first publication of one of
Newton's complete alchemical MS; J. E. Hofmann, “Neue
Newtoniana,” in Studia Leibnitiana, 2 (1970), 140-145, a
review of recent literature; D. Kubrin, “Newton and the
Cyclical Cosmos,” in Journal of the History of Ideas, 28
(1967), 325-346; J. E. McGuire, “The Origin of Newton's
Doctrine of Essential Qualities,” in Centaurus, 12
233-260; and L. Trengrove, “Newton's Theological
Views,” in Annals of Science, 22 (1966), 277-294.
1. Early Life and Education. The major biographies of
Newton are David Brewster, Memoirs of the Life, Writings,
and Discoveries of Isaac Newton, 2 vols. (Edinburgh,
1855; 2nd ed., 1860; repr. New York, 1965), the best biography
of Newton, despite its stuffiness; for a corrective, see
Augustus De Morgan, Essays on the Life and Work of
Newton (Chicago-London, 1914); Louis Trenchard More,
Isaac Newton (New York-London, 1934; repr. New York,
1962); and Frank E. Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton
(Cambridge, Mass., 1968). Of the greatest value is the
“synoptical view” of Newton's life, pp. xxi-lxxxi, with
supplementary documents, in J. Edleston, ed., Correspondence
of Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Cotes ...
(London, 1850; repr. London, 1969). Supplementary
information concerning Newton's youthful studies is given
in D. T. Whiteside, “Isaac Newton: Birth of a Mathematician,”
in Notes and Records. Royal Society of London,
19 (1964), 53-62, and “Newton's Marvellous Year: 1666
and All That,” ibid., 21 (1966), 32-41.
John Conduitt assembled recollections of Newton by
Humphrey Newton, William Stukeley, William Derham,
A. De Moivre, and others, which are now mainly in the
Keynes Collection, King's College, Cambridge. Many of
these documents have been printed in Edmund Turnor,
Collections for the History of the Town and Soke of
Grantham (London, 1806). William Stukeley's Memoirs
of Sir Isaac Newton's Life (1752) was edited by A. Hastings
White (London, 1936).
On Newton's family and origins, see C. W. Foster, “Sir
Isaac Newton's Family,” in Reports and Papers of the
Architectural Societies of the County of Lincoln, County of
York, Archdeaconries of Northampton and Oakham, and
County of Leicester, 39 (1928-1929), 1-62. Newton's early
notebooks are in Cambridge in the University Library,
the Fitzwilliam Museum, and Trinity College Library; and
in New York City in the Morgan Library. For the latter,
see David Eugene Smith, “Two Unpublished Documents
of Sir Isaac Newton,” in W. J. Greenstreet, ed., Isaac
Newton 1642-1727 (London, 1927), pp. 16 ff. Also, E. N.
da C. Andrade, “Newton's Early Notebook,” in Nature,
135 (1935), 360; George L. Huxley: “Two Newtonian
Studies: I. Newton's Boyhood Interests,” in Harvard
Library Bulletin, 13 (1959), 348-354; and A. R. Hall, “Sir
Isaac Newton's Notebook, 1661-1665,” in Cambridge
Historical Journal, 9 (1948), 239-250. Elsewhere, Andrade
has shown that Newton did not write the poem, attributed
to him, concerning Charles II, a conclusion supported by
William Stukeley's 1752 Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's
Life, A. Hastings White, ed. (London, 1936).
On Newton's early diagrams and his sundial, see
Charles Turnor, “An Account of the Newtonian Dial
Presented to the Royal Society,” in Proceedings of the
Royal Society, 5 (1851), 513 (13 June 1844); and H. W.
Robinson, “Note on Some Recently Discovered Geometrical
Drawings in the Stonework of Woolsthorpe
Manor House,” in Notes and Records. Royal Society of
London, 5 (1947), 35-36. For Newton's catalogue of
“sins,” see R. S. Westfall, “Short-writing and the State
Newton's Conscience, 1662,” in Notes and Records. Royal
Society of London, 18 (1963), 10-16.
On Newton's early reading, see R. S. Westfall, “The