Enlightening Science

Enlightening Science was a JISC-funded digital project that ran from March 2009 to February 2010. The project used Enlightenment accounts of Newton’s scientific work to convey basic principles of physics to modern day audiences. It worked closely with a number of schools and other institutions and pioneered the use of videos, both to record interviews with historians of science and to capture the recreation of core Newtonian experiments. Thanks to this grant, the Newton Project was also able to transcribe and publish a number of major original scientific works composed by Newton, along with a wide range of ‘Newtonian’ texts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Newton’s Mathematical and Scientific Texts

Popularisations

Englightening Science Podcasts (by Rob Iliffe)

Podcasts (by Others)

26 items

  • Alexi Baker, 1. London is their North Star In her first vodcast, Alexi Baker of Oxford University discusses the place of London in the trade and manufacture of scientific instruments.
  • Alexi Baker, 2. Making Scientific Instruments in 18th century London In her second vodcast, Alexi Baker of Oxford University discusses the different types of scientific instruments being manufactured and the people to whom they are sold.
  • Alexi Baker, 3. The Intellectual and Entrepreneurial Collide In her third vodcast, Alexi Baker of Oxford University discusses the instrument makers themselves and the various ways in which they supplemented their incomes.
  • Alexi Baker, 4. Polite Society and the Public Theatre In her fourth vodcast, Alexi Baker of Oxford University discusses the gentile audiences for experimental, philosophical demonstrations, their fashionable status, and the effect these trends had on Newton’s reputation.
  • 1. John Theophilus Desaguliers: Dedicatory Letter In this letter, Desaguliers dedicates the book to Frederick, Prince of Wales - son of George II - a dedication which acknowledges the Princes’s support and patronage as much as it serves to lend his work authority and gravitas.
  • 2. John Theophilus Desaguliers: Preface I In the first part of his preface, Desaguliers outlines his philosophy of science, the importance of mathematics and geometry to understanding the natural world, and explains how Newton’s thinking has overthrown much of the existing conjectural philosopy, not least that of Descartes.
  • 3. John Theophilus Desaguliers: Preface II In the second part of his preface, Desaguliers points out how the need to learn mathematics often frightens people from Newtonian philosophy. He explains the superiority of the explanation of causes over the formation of hypotheses, and notes the success of Dr. Keill’s experimental lecture courses in teaching Newtonian principles without mathematics.
  • 4. John Theophilus Desaguliers: Preface III In the third part of his preface, Desaguliers considers his own audience, explaining how his lectures use mechanical demonstrations to make their point, while reminding the reader of the importance of attending the entire course of lectures.
  • Jim Bennett, The Newtonian Telescope In his first vodcast, Jim Bennett, Director of the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, talks about the Newtonian telescope, why Newton designed it, and how it fits into the story of science in the eighteenth century.
  • Jim Bennett, Astronomical Instruments In his second vodcast, Jim Bennett, Director of the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, explores the impact of the astronomical instrument trade on the practise of astronomy in the eighteenth century.
  • Jim Bennett, Scientific Instrument Makers In his third vodcast, Jim Bennett, Director of the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, examines how instrument makers exerted more control over which instruments were made than the astronomers who commissioned them.
  • Dr Jonathan Hare, Experimentum Crucis This experiment explains how Newton proved the homogeneity of light using a prism and a convex lens.
  • John Theophilus Desaguliers, Gravesande's "Projection of Heavy Bodies" In this vodcast, J.T. Desaguliers presents one of Willem ’s Gravesande’s experiments on how objects accelerate under gravity. Gravesande was Professor of Experimental Philosophy at Leiden University. His course was first translated into English by Dr. John Keill, and later by J T Desaguliers, who considered this first translation as flawed.
  • Dr Jonathan Hare, Air Pressure This experiment explores the properties of air using a popular device from the 18th century - the air pump.
  • Dr Jonathan Hare, Centre of Gravity Discs This experiment shows the difference between the centre of gravity and the centre of motion, using the 3 discs designed by J T Desaguliers.
  • Dr Jonathan Hare, Compound Levers This experiment explores the principle of levers using a device designed by J T Desaguliers and similar to one used by Stephen Demainbray.
  • Dr Jonathan Hare, Parabolic Trajectory This experiment explores the parabolic trajectory machine and what it can tell us about the nature of gravity.
  • Dr Jonathan Hare, The Double Rolling Cone This experiment explains a popular paradox from the 18th century: the double rolling cone, a shape which appears to travel uphill.
  • Dr Jonathan Hare, The Inclined Plane This experiment uses an apparatus to investigate friction and the efficiency of cartwheels.
  • Rebekah Higgit, Fontenelle’s Eloge In the first of three vodcasts on the literary treatments of Newton’s life, Rebekah Higgit tells the surprising story of his first biography. Rebekah Higgit is Curator of the History of Science and Technology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and an expert on Newtonian biography.
  • Rebekah Higgit, 18th Century British Biographies In second of three vodcasts on the literary treatments of Newton’s life, Rebekah Higgit, Curator of the History of Science and Technology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and an expert on Newtonian biography, talks about the image of Newton promoted in eighteenth-century British biographies.
  • Rebekah Higgit, Newton Re-Examined In the last of the three vodcasts on the literary treatments of Newton’s life, Rebekah Higgit, Curator of the History of Science and Technology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and an expert on Newtonian biography, talks about how the image of Newton changed through new archival discoveries in the nineteenth century.
  • Peter Langman, The Experimental Lecturers Eighteenth century lecturers developed lectures meant to simplify Newton’s scientific ideas and made them understandable to the people.
  • Peter Langman, Women and Children Next: Newtonian Popularisations Pete Langman discusses Franceso Algarotti’s Newton for the Ladies and Tom Telescope’s Philosophy of Tops and Balls, two different approaches to popularising Newton’s scientific ideas ‘without maths’.
  • Jane Wess, King George III’s Scientific Instruments Jane Wess, Senior Curator of Science at London’s Science Museum, takes us on a guided tour of the King George III collection of scientific instruments. Instruments include the oil of oranges, the Archimedean Screw, the incline plane, the philosophical table, and an air pump.
  • Jane Wess, Scientific Instruments of Stephen Demainbray In this, the second of two talks from Jane Wess, Senior Curator of Science at London’s Science Museum, Jane shows us the scientific instruments of Stephen Demainbray. Stephen Demainbray travelled the country performing experimental lectures for public consumption, and his instruments were somewhat less grand than those of George Adams. Some of the instruments shown include a compound lever, a pendulum, a whirling table, and a cometarium, the camera obscura and Demainbray’s telescope.

© 2017 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

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