Catalogue Entry: ALCH00109

Notes evidently on Newton's own laboratory experiments

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MS Add. 3973, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK

[Normalized Text (at Chymistry of Isaac Newton)]


The numbers preceding each set of experiments (except the tenth, which is not numbered on the manuscript) seem to have been added by a later hand.

1. (f. 1r) 'Experiments' dated 10 Dec. 1678 to 15 Jan. [1678/9?]. On subliming antimony with sal ammoniac and alloying antimony with lead, iron and other metals. In English, 3 pp.

2. (f. 5r) 'Experimts' dated Jan. 1679/80. On subliming antimonial sublimate with lead antimoniate. 22 Jan. Action of nitric acid and sal ammoniac on antimony sulphide, and further sublimations. In English, 8 pp.

3. (f. 9r) 'Experiments Feb. 1679/80.' On fusing antimony with vitriol and other substances. Sublimation of various metals with antimony and sal ammoniac. Action of oil of vitriol on galena, of nitric acid on sublimate of antimony, and others in the same vein In English, 6 pp.

4. (f. 13r) 'Experiments Aug. 1682.' Similar experiments; some on lead ore, others on an alloy of tin and bismuth referred to as 'Diana' (cf. references to the 'Doves of Diana' in Keynes Mss. 34 and 59). In English, 4 pp.

5. (f. 17r) 'Expts. Iuly 10 [no year]'. Sublimations of calx albus with [sal ammoniac?]. [The symbol used is a six-armed asterisk, which is not a conventional symbol for anything. Most (al)chemical writers at the period, including Newton, normally use an eight-armed asterisk for 'sal ammoniac', though Newton sometimes uses the eight-armed asterisk for 'star regulus of antimony': see Dobbs, Janus Faces, 296.] Includes the striking if enigmatic claim 'Iuly 10. Vidi [salammoniacum?] philosophicum. [...] Digestus cum tinctura Veneris [uncia] 5 gr 20 dabat Leonem vir[idem] gr 10. & [vitriolem] gr 180 vel 200 sed [vitriolus] istud per destillationem nullum emittebit [salammoniacum?] ph[ilosoph]icum' ['I saw the philosophical [sal ammoniac?]. 20 grains digested with 5 ounces of tincture of Venus [i.e. copper] gave 10 grains of the green Lion and 180 or 200 grains of vitriol, but upon distillation this vitriol yielded no philosophical [sal ammoniac?]']. In Latin, 1 p.

6. (f. 19r) 'Experimts April 26t 1686.' On a volatile salt of zinc [apparently the chloride], and on an alloy derived from ores of iron, antimony, tin , lead, and bismuth. 16 May. On subliming 'Ve. vo.' [probably 'Venus volans' or 'volatisata', i.e. volatilised copper] with precipitates of antimony and iron, and with mercury. In English, 2 pp.

7. (f. 21r) 'Experiments' dated 5 and 16 March 1690/1. On some bismuth compounds and the action of aqua fortis on alloys of tin, bismuth and zinc. In English, 5 pp. Followed by a page headed 'Experiments of Refining Gold by Antimony made by Dr Ionathan Goddard' but with no text (cf. Babson Ms. 725).

8. (f. 25r) 'Experiments & observations Dec. 1692 & Ian. 1692/3.' On the action of barm in brewing and distilling. Other experiments on the salts of metals and various sublimations. Comparison of the fusibility of alloys of lead, tin, and bismuth in various proportions. Further observations dated April and June 1693 on vitrification of reguluses and the fermentation of 'The two serpents' with the salts of various metals. In English, 7 pp.

9. (f. 29r) 'Experiments April 1695.' Experiments with antimony and ores of iron, copper, and tin, and sublimations with sal ammoniac. (f. 30v) 'Experiments Feb. 1695/6' Sublimations of antimony with iron ore. In English, 5 pp.

[10.] (f. 32r) Undated notes on miscellaneous experiments, including studies of the action of aqua fortis on antimony sulphide; sublimation of an alloy of antimony and lead with sal ammoniac; experiments on lead ore and other substances. In English, 29 pp.

11. (f. 51r) 'De metallo ad conficiendum speculum componendo & fundendo': a Latin recipe, 2 pp.

Extracts in A.R. and M.B. Hall, 'Newton's chemical experiments'. Section 8 printed in Dobbs, Janus Faces, 288-92. Section 11 printed in Brewster (1855), 2: 535-6.

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