Summer thoughts…

Oxford, summer, unusually un-British weather. Currently setting up and drafting a chapter on Newton’s reading practices, with specific focus on his chronological readings. Turns out I find it extremely difficult to turn all the finds I collected over the past three years into a coherent narrative. Whatever happened to creativity?

To the unknown scribe – Isaac Newton’s assistants

Over the past year and a half I have been blogging about many things Newtonian. Some of these are of a more general nature, involving Newton’s life and works, while others are more directly related to my main research project. That main project involves Newton as a reader of books, a taker of notes, and…

All was light – but was it?

According to many popular books on history of science, the modern world came to be in 1687. That year Isaac Newton published his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, more commonly known as the Principia, which was an instant hit and changed the way we think about the system of the world for good. No more weird Cartesian vortices, but gravitational…

Of alchemy and dogears

Behind this link you will find scans of a book. In a sense it is just a book, a copy of John Marsham’s Canon Chronicus Aegypticus to be precise, which is now in Linda Hall Library in Kansas City. There are many extant copies of this book, but the librarians at Linda Hall did a superb…

SIN meets LSA

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the wonderful people at Indiana University. Together we worked on all things Newtonian, and in particular on a computational method called Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA). This is a technique that originates from the early 80s and has some of its roots…

Adventures in Huntingtonland, Pt. 2

It is a Friday afternoon, and California is experiencing another heat wave. It is not as hot as a few weeks ago, with temperatures well in the 100s/40s, but my daily bike routine, three miles uphill on Allen Avenue, is a continual challenge. It has been an exciting week.

Adventures in Huntingtonland, Pt. 1

I feel very privileged to be able to write this post. Here I am, sitting behind my desk on a quiet Saturday afternoon in Pasadena, California. The soaring heat of the past weeks has turned into a mellow breeze, and though the week to come promises interesting temperatures once more, it is all right. I…

Newton’s Working Practices (2) – I did it my way…

In our last episode we looked at Isaac Newton’s use of catchwords. Today our focus will be on his citation practices, with special regards to his command of ancient languages. At his grammar school in Grantham, the young Newton had received a basic but thorough training in Latin and Greek. When we look at his…

Dating Isaac

When in 1717 Princes Caroline learnt of Isaac Newton’s chronological studies through their mutual relation, the French Abbé Conti, she requested to see his work. Shortly after their meeting Newton presented her with his Short Chronicle, and allowed Conti to make a copy. That’s when things went a bit out of hand. Within months Conti…

“Was Newton a man?” – The Enigma

After twenty years of full time Newtonian research, Richard Westfall was said to be totally fed up with Newton. The author of Never at Rest, Westfall’s biographical studies had shown him the evil machinations of a full fledged tyrant, who used every means at hand to get what he wanted. He harassed John Flamsteed, the…

“Tired with this subject…” – Newton and Publication

Isaac Newton’s publication record is not exactly impressive: two articles, the New Theory of Light and Colours (1672) and the Hypothesis of Light (1675), and two books, the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) and Opticks (1703). Even if we include the second and third editions of the Principia, which contained major revisions, the various editions of Opticks, and all his (semi-) public correspondence,…