SUCH were the last days of Sir Isaac Newton, and such the laurels that were shed over his grave. A century of discoveries has, since his time, been added to science; but brilliant as these discoveries are, they have not obliterated the minutest of his labours, and have served only to brighten the halo which encircles his name. The achievements of genius, like the source from which they spring, are indestructible. Acts of legislation and deeds of war may confer a high celebrity, but the reputation which they bring is local and transient; and while they are hailed by the nation which they benefit, they are reprobated by the people whom they ruin or enslave. The labours of science, on the contrary, bear along with them no counterpart of evil. They are the liberal bequests of great minds to every individual of their race; and wherever they are welcomed and honoured, they become the solace of private life, and the ornament and bulwark of the commonwealth.


The importance of Sir Isaac Newton's discoveries has been sufficiently exhibited in the preceding chapters. The peculiar character of his genius, and the method which he pursued in his inquiries, can be gathered only from the study of his works, and from the history of his individual labours. Were we to judge of the qualities of his mind from the early age at which he made his principal discoveries, and from the rapidity of their succession, we should be led to ascribe to him that quickness of penetration, and that exuberance of invention, which is more characteristic of poetical than of philosophical genius. But we must recollect that Newton was placed in the most favourable circumstances for the development of his powers. The flower of his youth, and the vigour of his manhood, were entirely devoted to science. No injudicious guardian controlled his ruling passion, and no ungenial studies or professional toils interrupted the continuity of his pursuits. His discoveries were therefore the fruit of persevering and unbroken study; and he himself declared, that whatever service he had done to the public was not owing to any extraordinary sagacity, but solely to industry and patient thought.

Initiated early into the abstractions of geometry, he was deeply imbued with her cautious spirit: And if his acquisitions were not made with the rapidity of intuition, they were at least firmly secured; and the grasp which he took of his subject was proportional to the mental labour which it had exhausted. Overlooking what was trivial, and separating what was extraneous, he bore down with instinctive sagacity on the prominences of his subject, and having thus grappled with its difficulties, he never failed to entrench himself in its strongholds.

To the highest powers of invention Newton added, <400> what so seldom accompanies them, the talent of simplifying and communicating his profoundest speculations.[1] In the economy of her distributions, nature is seldom thus lavish of her intellectual gifts. The inspired genius which creates is rarely conferred along with the matured judgment which combines, and yet without the exertion of both, the fabric of human wisdom could never have been reared. Though a ray from heaven kindled the vestal fire, yet an humble priesthood was required to keep alive the flame.

The method of investigating truth by observation and experiment, so successfully pursued in the Principia, has been ascribed by some modern writers of celebrity to Lord Bacon; and Sir Isaac Newton is represented as having owed all his discoveries to the application of the principles of that distinguished writer. One of the greatest admirers of Lord Bacon has gone so far as to characterize him as a man who has had no rival in the times which are past, and as likely to have none in those which are to come. In a eulogy so overstrained, we feel that the language of panegyric has passed into that of idolatiy; and we are desirous of weighing the force of arguments which tend to depose Newton from the high priesthood of nature, and to unsettle the proud destinies of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler.

That Bacon was a man of powerful genius, and endowed with varied and profound talent, — the most skilful logician, — the most nervous and eloquent writer of the age which he adorned, are points which have been establisned by universal suffrage. The study of ancient systems had <401> early impressed him with the conviction that experiment and observation were the only sure guides in physical inquiries; and, ignorant though he was of the methods, the principles, and the details of the mathematical sciences, his ambition prompted him to aim at the construction of an artificial system by which the laws of nature might be investigated, and which might direct the inquiries of philosophers in every future age. The necessity of experimental research, and of advancing gradually from the study of facts to the determination of their cause, though the groundwork of Bacon's method, is a doctrine which was not only inculcated, but successfully followed by preceding philosophers. In a letter from Tycho Brahe to Kepler, this industrious astronomer urges his pupil "to lay a solid foundation for his views by actual observation, and then by ascending from these to strive to reach the causes of things;" and it was no doubt under the influence of this advice that Kepler submitted his wildest fancies to the test of observation, and was conducted to his most splendid discoveries. The reasonings of Copernicus, who preceded Bacon by more than a century, were all founded upon the most legitimate induction. Dr. Gilbert had exhibited in his Treatise on the Magnet[2] the most perfect specimen of physical research. Leonardo da Vinci had described in the clearest manner the proper method of philosophical investigation;[3] and the whole scientific career of Galileo was one continued example of the most sagacious application of observation and experiment to the discovery of general laws. The names of <402> Paracelsus, Van Helmont, and Cardan, have been ranged in opposition to this constellation of great names, and while it is admitted that even they had thrown off the yoke of the schools, and had succeeded in experimental research, their credulity and their pretensions have been adduced as a proof that to the "bulk of philosophers" the method of induction was unknown. The fault of this argument consists in the conclusion being infinitely more general than the fact. The errors of these men were not founded on their ignorance, but on their presumption. They wanted the patience of philosophy, and not her methods. An excess of vanity, a waywardness of fancy, and an insatiable appetite for that species of passing fame which is derived from eccentricity of opinion, moulded the reasonings and disfigured the writings of these ingenious men; and it can scarcely admit of a doubt, that, had they lived in the present age, their philosophical character would have received the same impress from the peculiarity of their tempers and dispositions. This is an experiment, however, which cannot now be made; but the history of modern science supplies the defect, and the experience of every man furnishes a proof, that in the present age there are philosophers of elevated talents and inventive genius who are as impatient of experimental research as Paracelsus, as fanciful as Cardan, and as presumptuous as Van Helmont.

Having thus shown that the distinguished philosophers who flourished before Bacon were perfect masters both of the principles and practice of inductive research, it becomes interesting to inquire whether or not the philosophers who succeeded him acknowledged any obligation to his system, or derived the slightest advantage from his precepts. If Bacon constructed a method to which <403> modern science owes its existence, we shall find its cultivators grateful for the gift, and offering the richest incense at the shrine of a benefactor whose generous labours conducted them to immortality. No such testimonies, however, are to be found. Nearly two hundred years have gone by, teeming with the richest fruits of human genius, and no grateful disciple has appeared to vindicate the rights of the alleged legislator of science. Even Newton, who was born and educated after the publication of the Novum Organon, never mentions the name of Bacon or his system; and the amiable and indefatigable Boyle treated him with the same disrespectful silence. When we are told, therefore, that Newton owed all his discoveries to the method of Bacon, nothing more can be meant than that he proceeded in that path of observation and experiment which had been so warmly recommended in the Novum Organon; but it ought to have been added, that the same method was practised by his predecessors; that Newton possessed no secret that was not used by Galileo and Copernicus; and that he would have enriched science with the same splendid discoveries if the name and the writings of Bacon had never been heard of.[4]

From this view of the subject we shall now proceed to examine the Baconian process itself, and consider if it possesses any merit as an artificial method of discovery, or if it is at all capable of being employed, for this purpose, even in the humblest walks of scientific inquiry.


The process of Lord Bacon was, we believe, never tried by any philosopher but himself. As the subject of its application, he selected that of heat. With his usual erudition, he collected all the facts which science could supply, — he arranged them in tables, — he cross-questioned them with all the subtlety of a pleader, — he combined them with all the sagacity of a judge, — and he conjured them by all the magic of his exclusive processes. But, after all this display of physical logic, nature thus interrogated was still silent. The oracle which he had himself established refused to give its responses, and the ministering priest was driven with discomfiture from his shrine. This example, in short, of the application of his system, will remain to future ages as a memorable instance of the absurdity of attempting to fetter discovery by any artificial rules.

Nothing even in mathematical science can be more certain than that a collection of scientific facts are of themselves incapable of leading to discovery, or to the determination of general laws, unless they contain the predominating fact or relation in which the discovery mainly resides. A vertical column of arch-stones possesses more strength than the same materials arranged in an arch without the key-stone. However nicely they are adjusted, and however nobly the arch may spring, it never can possess either equilibrium or stability. In this comparison all the facts are supposed to be necessary to the final result; but, in the inductive method, it is impossible to ascertain the relative importance of any facts, or even to determine if the facts have any value at all, till the master fact which constitutes the discovery has crowned the zealous efforts of the aspiring philosopher. The mind then returns to the dark and barren waste over which it <405> has been hovering; and by the guidance of this single torch it embraces, under the comprehensive grasp of general principles, the multifarious and insulated phenomena which had formerly neither value nor connexion. Hence it must be obvious to the most superficial thinker, that discovery consists either in the detection of some concealed relation — some deep-seated affinity which baffles ordinary research, or in the discovery of some simple fact which is connected by slender ramifications with the subject to be investigated; but which, when once detected, carries us back by its divergence to all the phenomena which it embraces and explains.

In order to give additional support to these views, it would be interesting to ascertain the general character of the process by which a mind of acknowledged power actually proceeds in the path of successful inquiry. The history of science does not furnish us with much information on this head, and if it is to be found at all, it must be gleaned from the biographies of eminent men. Whatever this process may be in its details, if it has any, there cannot be the slightest doubt that in its generalities at least it is the very reverse of the method of induction. The impatience of genius spurns the restraints of mechanical rules, and never will submit to the plodding drudgery of inductive discipline. The discovery of a new fact unfits even a patient mind for deliberate inquiry. Conscious of having added to science what had escaped the sagacity of former ages, the ambitious discoverer invests his new acquisition with an importance which does not belong to it. He imagines a thousand consequences to flow from his discovery: He forms innumerable theories to explain it, and he exhausts his fancy in trying all its possible relations to recognised difficulties and unexplained facts. The <406> reins, however, thus freely given to his imagination, are speedily drawn up. His wildest conceptions are all subjected to the rigid test of experiment, and he has thus been hurried by the excursions of his own fancy into new and fertile paths, far removed from ordinary observation. Here the peculiar character of his own genius displays itself by the invention of methods of trying his own speculations, and he is thus often led to new discoveries far more important and general than that by which he began his inquiry. For a confirmation of these views, we may refer to the history of Kepler's Discoveries; and if we do not recognise them to the same extent in the labours of Newton, it is because he kept back his discoveries till they were nearly perfected, and therefore withheld the successive steps of his inquiries.[5]

The social character of Sir Isaac Newton was such as might have been expected from his intellectual attainments. He was modest, candid, and affable, and without any of the eccentricities of genius, suiting himself to every company, and speaking of himself and others in such a manner that he was never even suspected of vanity. "But this," says Dr. Pemberton, "I immediately discovered in him, which at once both surprised and charmed me. Neither his extreme great age, nor his universal reputation, had rendered him stiff in opinion, or in any degree elated. Of this I had occasion to have almost daily experience. The remarks I continually sent him by letters <407> on the Principia were received with the utmost goodness. These were, so far from being anyways displeasing to him, that on the contrary they occasioned him to speak many kind things of me to my friends, and to honour me with a public testimony of his good opinion."

The modesty of Sir Isaac Newton, in reference to his great discoveries, was not founded on any indifference to the fame which they conferred,[6] or upon any erroneous judgment of their importance to science. The whole of his life proves, that he knew his place as a philosopher, and was determined to assert and vindicate his rights. His modesty arose from the depth and extent of his knowledge, which showed him what a small portion of nature he had been able to examine, and how much remained to be explored in the same field in which he had himself laboured. In the magnitude of the comparison he recognised his own littleness; and a short time before his death he uttered this memorable sentiment: I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." <408> What a lesson to the vanity and presumption of philosophers, — to those especially who have never even found the smoother pebble or the prettier shell! What a preparation for the latest inquiries, and the last views of the decaying spirit, — for those inspired doctrines which alone can throw a light over the dark ocean of undiscovered truth!

In the religious and moral character of our author, there is much to admire and to imitate. While he exhibited in his life and writings an ardent regard for the general interests of religion, he was at the same time a firm believer in Revelation. He was too deeply versed in the Scriptures, and too much imbued with their spirit, to judge harshly of other men who took different views of them from his own. He cherished the great principles of religious toleration, and never scrupled to express his abhorrence of persecution, even in its mildest form. Immorality and impiety he never permitted to pass unreproved. When Vigani told him "a loose story about a nun," he gave up his acquaintance, and when Dr. Halley[7] ventured to say anything disrespectful to religion, he invariably checked him, with the remark, "I have studied these things, — you have not."

He considered cruelty to "brute beasts" as a violation of Christian morality, and such was his tenderness for the lower creation, that he could not tolerate the sports of hunting or shooting animals. When Mr. Conduitt was one day speaking favourably of one of Sir Isaac's nephews, <409> he urged it as an objection against him, "that he loved killing of birds."[8]

The native simplicity of Sir Isaac Newton's mind is finely pourtrayed in the affecting letter in which he acknowledges to Locke, that he had thought and spoken of him uncharitably; and the humility and candour in which he asks forgiveness, could have emanated only from a mind as noble as it was pure. When Locke wrote to Sir Peter King that Newton "is a nice man to deal with, and a little too apt to raise in himself suspicions where there is no ground," he referred to an imperfection of character which we have not scrupled to notice, whether in his controversies with Hooke or with Flamsteed. It would be a sacrifice of truth, and an empty compliment to the memory of so great a man, to speak of him as exempt from the infirmities of our common nature. When Bishop Burnet has said that he valued him for something still more valuable than all his philosophy, — for having the whitest soul he ever knew, — we may well decline to search for shades on a tablet so pure. It is far from the duty of a biographer, who has been permitted to inspect the private and sacred relics of the dead, to sit in judgment on the failings they may disclose. It is enough that he deals honestly with what is known, and makes no apology for what is socially or morally wrong. Other biographers are under no such restraint. In searching even the recesses of great minds for the manifestation of <410> a common humanity, the philosopher may throw light upon those compensatory adjustments by which great talents and high position are sometimes united with social and even moral failings. If in estimating the character of Newton, Professor De Morgan has pointed out more conspicuously than other biographers the failings to which we have referred, he has yet drawn his character with such tenderness and truth, that we accept of it as a noble tribute to the noblest of our race. "It is enough," he says, "that Newton is the greatest of philosophers, and one of the best of men;" — that "we cannot find in his character an acquired failing;" — " — "that all his errors are to be traced to a disposition which seems to have been born with him; and that, admitting them in their fullest extent, he remains an object of unqualified wonder, and all but unqualified respect." Nor is the tribute of the poet less just than that of the mathematician. When Pope expressed a wish for "some memoirs and character of Newton as a private man," he did "not doubt that his life and manners would make as great a discovery of virtue and goodness and rectitude of heart, as his works have done of penetration and the utmost stretch of human knowledge."[9]

After Sir Isaac took up his residence in London, he lived in a very handsome style, and kept his carriage, with an establishment of three male and three female servants. In his own house he was hospitable and kind, and on proper occasions he gave splendid entertainments, though without ostentation or vanity. In his diet he was frugal, and in all his habits temperate. When he was asked to take snuff or tobacco, he declined, remairking "that he would make no necessities to himself." His dress <411> was always simple, but on one occasion, when he opposed the Honourable Mr. Annesley in 1705, as a candidate for the University, he is said to have put on a suit of laced clothes.

Sir Isaac does not appear to have had much taste for the fine arts. He used to say of his friend the Earl of Pembroke, "that he was a lover of stone dolls."[10] Notwithstanding his dislike of sculpture, he seems to have been considered a judge of pictures. He was chosen a "Commissioner for Paintings, and having a dispute with Archbishop Wake, whom he opposed, he told a story of a Bishop who said on that subject, 'that when this snow (pointing to his grey hairs) falls, there will be a great deal of dirt in churches.' After this he went to no more of their meetings."[11]

His generosity and charity had no bounds, and he used to remark, that they who gave away nothing till they died, never gave at all. Though his wealth had become considerable by a prudent economy, yet he had always a contempt for money, and he spent a considerable part of his income in relieving the poor, — in assisting his relations,[12] and in encouraging ingenuity and learning.[13] He was scrupulously exact and regular in all matters of business; and though he disregarded money, allowing his <412> rents often to remain unpaid, he had a deep sense of justice, and was very strict in demanding from his tenants at Woolsthorpe, even in very small matters, a rigorous performance of their obligations.[14] His conduct, however, was not always influenced by this principle. When he had been imposed upon in purchasing an estate at Baydon, in Wiltshire, for which he had paid double its value, and was told that "he might vacate the bargain in equity," he replied, "that he would not for the sake of two thousand pounds go into Westminster Hall to tell that he had been made a fool of."[15] The same unwillingness to have recourse to legal proceedings shewed itself on another occasion. He one day missed bank bills to the amount of upwards of £3000, and he suspected that his pocket had been picked by W. Whiston, a nephew of Whiston, who had bought an estate in land of that value without any visible means of paying for it. Notwithstanding the magnitude of the loss, he could not be prevailed upon to prosecute the supposed delinquent, and when Mr. Conduitt asked him how much he had lost, he only answered "too much."[16]


His liberality, indeed, was in some instances excessive. On one occasion he offered Cheselden as a fee a handful of guineas out of his coat pocket, and when he refused them, saying that a guinea or two was the most he ought to have, Sir Isaac laughing said, "Suppose I do give you more than your fee."[17] To Dr. Cheyne, who refused to take money from him, he was less indulgent. According to a statement made by Dr. Arbuthnot to Conduitt, he one day told Sir Isaac that Dr. Cheyne had written an ingenious book on mathematics, but that he had not money to print it. "Bring it to me," said Sir Isaac; and when the manuscript was brought to him, he offered Cheyne a bag of money, which he refused, and "Newton would see him no more."[18]

The habits of deep meditation which Sir Isaac Newton had acquired, though they did not show themselves in his intercourse with society, exercised their full influence over his mind when in the midst of his own family. Absorbed in thought he would often sit down on his bedside after he rose, and remain there for hours without dressing himself, occupied with some interesting investigation which had fixed his attention. Owing to the same absence of mind, he neglected to take the requisite quantity of nourishment, and it was therefore often necessary to remind him of his meals.[19]

In his personal appearance, Sir Isaac Newton was not above the middle size, and in the latter part of his life was inclined to be corpulent. According to Mr. Conduitt, "he had a very lively and piercing eye, a comely and gracious aspect, with a fine head of hair as white as silver, without any baldness, and when his peruke was off was a venerable sight." Bishop Atterbury asserts,[20] on the other <414> hand, that the lively and piercing eye did not belong to Sir Isaac during the last twenty years of his life. "Indeed," says he, "in the whole air of his face and make there was nothing of that penetrating sagacity which appears in his compositions. He had something rather languid in his look and manner which did not raise any great expectation in those who did not know him." This opinion of Bishop Atterbury is confirmed by an observation of Mr. Thomas Hearne,[21] who says that "Sir Isaac was a man of no very promising aspect. He was a short well-set man. He was full of thought, and spoke very little in company, so that his conversation was not agreeable. When he rode in his coach one arm would be out of his coach on one side, and the other on the other." Sir Isaac never wore spectacles, and never "lost more than one tooth to the day of his death. '

Beside the statue of Sir Isaac Newton executed by Roubilliac, there is a bust of him by the same artist in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge.[22] Several good paintings of him are extant. Two of these are in the hall of the Royal Society of London, and have, we believe, been often engraved. Another, by Vanderbank, is in the small combination room in Trinity College, and has been engraved by Vertue. Another, by Valentine Ritts, is in the Hall of Trinity College; but the best, from which the frontispiece to Volume I. is copied, was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, and is in the possession of Lord Egremont at Petworth.[23] There are several portraits of Newton at <415> Hurtsbourne Park. In the University Library there is a cast from his face after death, by Roubilliac, from which the following engraving is taken, after a photograph from the cast by the Rev. Mr. Kingsley.


Every memorial of so great a man as Sir Isaac Newton has been preserved and cherished with peculiar veneration. His house at Woolsthorpe, of which we have given an engraving, has been religiously protected by Mr. Turnor of Stoke Rocheford, the proprietor. Dr. Stukely, who visited it in Sir Isaac's lifetime on the 13th October 1721, gives the following description of it in his letter to Dr. Mead, written in 1727: — "'Tis built of stone, as is the way of the country hereabouts, and a reasonable good one. They led me up stairs and showed me Sir Isaac's study, where I suppose he studied when in the country in his younger days, or perhaps when he visited his mother from the University. I observed the shelves were of his own making, being pieces of deal boxes which probably he sent his books and clothes down in on those occasions. There were some years ago two or three hundred books in it of <416> his father-in-law, Mr. Smith, which Sir Isaac gave to Dr. Newton of our town."[24]

When the house was repaired in 1798, a tablet of white marble was put up by Mr. Turnor in the room where Sir Isaac was born, with the following inscription: —

"Sir Isaac Newton, son of John Newton, Lord of the Manor of Woolsthorpe, was born in this room on the 25th December 1642."

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night,

God said, "Let Newton be," and all was Light.[25]

The following lines have been written upon the house: —

Here Newton dawned, here lofty wisdom woke,

And to a wondering world divinely spoke.

If Tully glowed, when Phædrus's steps he trode,

Or fancy formed Philosophy a God:

If sages still for Homer's birth contend,

The Sons of Science at this dome must bend.

All hail the shrine! All hail the natal day,

Cam boasts his noon, — This Cot his morning ray.

The celebrated apple tree, the fall of one of the apples of which is said to have turned the attention of Newton to the subject of gravity, was long ago destroyed by wind.[26]


Many interesting relics of Sir Isaac have been preserved with religious care. His reflecting telescope, as we have seen, is in the possession of the Royal Society of London, and in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, there is a large collection of articles which belonged to him — a terrestrial globe, a ring dial, a small brass quadrant, a mariner's compass, a parallel ruler, a pair of compasses, three locks of his silver-white hair, one of which was presented by Colonel C. Burr in 1835. The door of his book-case is in the museum of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. A descendant of Dr. Bentley possesses a watch presented to him by Newton in 1717,[27] and among the memorials given to the Royal Society by the Rev. Mr. Turnor, is a gold watch, said to have been presented by Mrs. Conduitt to Sir Isaac in January 1708.[28]

One of the most interesting and valuable relics of Sir Isaac is a silver box, beautifully carved, which he presented to the Earl of Abercorn, the great-grandfather of Sir George Hamilton Seymour, G.C.B., who has kindly placed it in my hands. It is three and a half inches in diameter, and one and a half inch deep.[29] It bears on the lid the <418> Hamilton arms, a crown surmounted by a tree crossed with a saw; and the bottom of it as well as the lid is carved with enigmatical numbers, forming a perpetual Julian THE LID OF THE BOX THE BOTTOM OF THE BOX Kalendar. When Sir George was our ambassador at Brussels in 1840, and at St. Petersburg in 1853, he <419> submitted the box to Professor Quetelet and M. Otto Struve of Pulkova, who have given a satisfactory explanation of all the legends except the following, which is one of those upon the bottom of the box: — [30]

Professor De Morgan's explanation of this compartment will be found below.[31]

The manuscripts, letters, and other papers of Newton <421> have been preserved in different collections. His correspondence with Cotes relative to the second edition of the Principia, and amounting to between sixty and a hundred letters, a considerable portion of the manuscript of that work, and five letters to Dr. Keill on the Leibnitzian controversy, are preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and have been published by Mr. Edleston in the interesting volume to which we have so often referred. Newton's letters to Flamsteed, about thirty-four in number, are deposited in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and those of Flamsteed are at Hurtsbourne Park. In the British Museum, and in the Library of the Royal Society of London, there are many letters of Newton and his correspondents. Several letters of Newton, and a copy of the original specimen which he drew up of the Principia, exist among the papers of Mr. William Jones, (the father of Sir William Jones,) which are preserved at <422> Shirburn Castle, in the library of Lord Macclesfield.[32] But the great mass of Newton's papers came into the possession of the Portsmouth family, through his niece, Lady Lymington, and have been safely preserved by that noble family. An account of many of the manuscripts has been given in the preceding pages, and several of the most important letters and papers will be found in the Appendix to this work.


This valuable faculty characterizes all his writings whether theological, chemical, or mathematical; but it is peculiarly displayed in his Treatise on Universal Arithmetic, and in his Optical Lectures.


De Magnete, pp. 42, 52, 169, and Preface, p. 30.


See Essai sur les Ouvrages Physico-mathématiques de Leonard de Vinci, par J. B. Venturi. Paris, 1799, pp. 32, 33, &c. See also Carlo Amoretti's Memorie storiche su lu vita gli studi e le Opere de Leonardo da Vinci. Milano, 1804.


"The man who first discovered that cold freezes water, and that heat turns it into vapour, proceeded on the same general principles and on the same method by which Newton discovered the law of gravitation, and the properties of light. His Regulæ Philosophandi are maxims of common sense, and are practised every day in common life; and he who philosophizes by other rules, either concerning the material system or concerning the mind, mistakes his aim." — Reid's Inquiry into the Human Mind. Introduction.


1 The following interesting anecdote is related in Conduitt's MSS.: — "When Sir A. Fountaine was at Berlin with Leibnitz in 1701, and at supper with the Queen of Prussia, she asked Leibnitz his opinion of Sir Isaac Newton. Leibnitz said that taking mathematicians from the beginning of the world to the time when Sir Isaac lived, what he had done was much the better half; and added that he had consulted all the learned in Europe upon some difficult points without having any satisfaction, and that when he applied to Sir Isaac, he wrote him in answer by the first post, to do so and so, and then he would find it."


The following anecdote is recorded by Conduitt, as showing Sir Isaac's indifference to fame: — "Mr. Molyneux related to us that after he and Mr. Graham and Dr. Bradley had put up a perpendicular telescope at Kew, to find out the parallax of the fixed stars, they found a certain nutation of the earth which they could not account for, and which Molyneux told me he thought destroyed entirely the Newtonian system; and therefore he was under the greatest difficulty how to break it to Sir Isaac. And when he did break it by degrees, in the softest manner, all Sir Isaac said in answer was, when he had told me his opinion, 'It may he so, there is no arguing against facts and experiments, — so cold was he to all sense of fame at a time when, as Tillotson said, a man has formed his last understanding.'" This conversation must have taken place in 1726, when Molyneux's instrument was in use at Kew; but the nutation, though proposed at that time as an explanation of the change of declination of γ Draconis, was not discovered till 1747 by Bradley. — See Rigaud's Life of Bradley, p. lxii. and pp. 2, 3.


Mr. Hearne, in a memorandum dated April 4, 1726, states that a great quarrel happened between Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Halley. We have not been able to find any traces of it. If we suppose the above date to be 1727, the rumour of a quarrel may have originated in the fact, that on the 2d March 1727, Sir Isaac had called attention to the omission on Halley's part, as Astronomer-Royal, to send to the Society a copy of his Annual Observations, as required by the late Queen's letter. — See Memoirs of the Astronomical Society, vol. viii, p. 188.


"Whiston," says Mrs. Conduitt, "had spread it abroad that Sir Isaac abstained from eating rabbits because strangled, and from black puddings, because made of blood. This," she adds, "is not true. Sir Isaac said that meats strangled were forbidden, because that was a painful death, and the letting out the blood the easiest, — that animals should be put to as little pain as possible, and that the reason why eating blood was forbidden, was because it was thought eating of blood inclined men to be cruel. — C. C."


Pope's letter to Conduitt. See APPENDIX, No. XXVII.


Conduitt's MSS.


This anecdote, which may relate to the putting up of pictures in churches, I have given in the words of Mrs. Conduitt, with whose initials it is signed.


"He was very kind to all the Ayscoughs. To one he gave £800, to another £200, and to a third £100, and many other sums; and other engagements did he enter into also for them. He was the ready assistant of all who were any way related to him, — to their children and grandchildren." — Annual Register, 1776, vol. xix. p. 25. He gave a regular allowance to his niece, Mrs. Pilkington, and on the 12th August 1725, he presented £100 to Mary Clarke to "augment her portion."


He gave money to Stirling, and brought him from Venice; and in 1719 and 1720 he presented to Pound, the astronomer, one hundred guineas, in two gifts of fifty guineas each. — Rigaud's Bradley, p iii., in note


In 1687-8 he had a law-suit with Mr. Storer, his tenant at Woolsthorpe, in order to compel him to scour the drains, and repair the thatch, and the walls, and palings of the swine-cot and cow-house, which he was bound by his lease to leave in good order. I have found the scroll of a long and characteristic letter addressed to a friend, "who had undertaken the office of an arbitrator." He thanks him for doing so, and expresses his hearty wish that he "may inherit the blessing promised to peace-makers." — See APPENDIX, No. XXXIII.

There is another scroll of a short letter to "Cosin John Newton," his heir-at-law, written about May 1720, and of a similar character. "I understand," he says, "that Thomas Hubbard agreed with you to leave his farm at Lady-day next, and that I was to allow him ten pounds for his manure. But now I am told that he would become tenant to it at eleven pounds per annum. This would be departing from the bargain already made, in order to make a new one. But there being sufficient witnesses of the bargain already made, I expect that he stand to it, and I desire you to demand it of him in my name, and to send me his answer, if he refuses to sign articles pursuant to what has been already agreed upon."


Conduitt's MSS.




Conduitt's MS.




See this volume, pp. 89 and 93.


Epistolary Correspondence, vol. i. p. 180. Sect. 77.


MSS. Memoranda in the Bodleian Library.


It is not true, as has been stated, that the original of this bust is in the possession of the Marquis of Lansdowne. The bust of Newton at Bowood Park is a copy of the one in the Library of Trinity, executed for his Lordship by Bailey.


"I have taken," says Dr. Stukely, "several sketches from his side face, which are very like him. I being present with him and Sir Godfrey (Kneller) at painting <415> his great picture to be sent to France, desired Sir Isaac to let Sir Godfrey paint his side face, a profile as we call it, for me. 'What!' said Sir Isaac, 'would you make a model of me ?' and refused it, though I was then in highest favour with him." — Stukely's Letter to Conduitt, Grantham, July 22, 1727.


Turnor's Collections, p.176.


The original of these lines, which we have seen in Pope's own handwriting, is slightly different, and inferior to those in the text: —

Nature and all her laws lay hid in night,

God said, "Let Newton be," and all was Light.


1 The anecdote of the falling apple is not mentioned by Dr. Stukely, nor by Pemberton, who conversed with Newton about the origin of his discoveries, and mentions the anecdote of Newton's sitting in a garden. I find, however, a reference to an apple in the following memorandum by Conduitt. "In the same year, (at his mother's in Lincolnshire,) when musing in a garden it came into his thoughts that the same power of gravity, which made an apple fall from the tree to the ground, was not limited to a certain distance." See vol. i. p. 27, note.

After quoting some interesting passages from Kepler on gravity, Mr. Drinkwater Bethune justly remarks, "Who, after perusing such passages in the works of an author which were in the hands of every student of astronomy, can believe that Newton waited for the fall of an apple to set him thinking for the first time on the theory which has immortalized his name? An apple may have fallen, and Newton may have seen it; but such speculations as those which it is asserted to have been <417> the cause of originating in him, had been long familiar to the thoughts of every one in Europe pretending to the name of Natural Philosopher." — Life of Kepler, p. 24. See vol. i. p. 268.


"This is to acquaint you," says N. Facio, "that I have agreed with Mr. Benjamin Steele, the watchmaker, at £15, for him to make the watch for Dr. Bentley. It will be with four pierced rubies and four diamonds, and I hope will be worth the money." — Letter to Newton, dated Worcester, June 15, 1717.


This date is obviously an error, as Miss Barton did not become Mrs. Conduitt till 1717. Professor De Morgan, who examined it, says, "that any one who looks at the inscription will see that it is not an old watch. It is neither ornamented nor placed in a shield or other envelope, while the case is beautifully chased, and has an elaborate design representing Fame and Britannia examining the portrait of Newton." — Notes and Queries, No. 210, p. 430. The dial-plate is obviously new. Mr. Turnor, in whose possession I saw the watch, told me that he purchased it in the Curiosity Shop at WarwicK.


In the woodcut the light parts are silver, and the dark ground is filled up with a substance which is dark in all the compartments and shields containing numbers, and reddish in the merely ornamental portions.


The following is the explanation given by M. Otto Struve: —

"The engravings compose a perpetual Julian Kalendar, and one very complete for the first 38 years of the last century, but which may still be partly used at the present day and in the future.

"1. The Lid of the Box.

"The numbers in the 19 shields which form its periphery, give in the first lines the dates of Easter for the years from 1700 to 1738. The month of March is there indicated by:, the month of April by A. In a shield (the 12th) we find also the sign + in the middle of two numbers of the first line, (1 + 29.) The sign here indicates that the first number belongs to the month of April, and the second to the month of March. In all the other cases the two numbers of the first line are those of the months indicated by the signs above mentioned.

"Each shield refers to two years, which are 19 years distant from one another. The first shield, which relates to the years 17OO and 1719, is that which is placed above the crown, (beneath the Hamilton Arms,) and a little to the right. In setting out from this first shield in a direction to the right, the numbers in the second line indicate the two years after 1700 to which Easter corresponds in the first line. Such numbers are found only in each fourth shield between which the numbers corresponding to the intermediate years ought to be supplied. In place of numbers, the second line presents to us, for these intermediate years, the initials of the days of the week which refer to the dates given in the central square of the lid. All the dates in this central square fall upon the same day of the week, indicated for each year by the initials which we read in the second and in the third line of the peripheral shields. The sign + which we find near some of the initials, indicates that the corresponding year is leap year, and that for this reason the days of the week have made leaps of two days. In the shields where there are numbers in place of initials, we must supply the days of the week with the assistance of the initials in the adjoining shields.

"The initials in the third line of the peripheral shields are only the continuation of those in the second line. The numbers in the third line are the golden numbers, and correspond equally to the two years indicated in the second line. The large cross which is in the eleventh shield for the year 1710, indicates that in this year a new lunar cycle commences. For this year the golden number is 1. As in the second line in the shields, and also in the third line where there is no mark of initials, we must supply them with the assistance of the adjacent shields, and vice versa for the numbers.

"With respect to the central square, we must still add that the Roman numerals indicate the month, — No. I. signifying March; II. April, and so on. The Arabic <420> numerals are the days of the month indicated above or below, to which correspond the initials of the days of the week in the peripheral shields. It is thus that, for example, for the year 1700 all the dates of the central square are Monday, for 1710 Saturday, &c. This part of the Kalendar may find an application even at present. For this purpose we must subtract 1700 from the year in question, and divide the difference by 28. The remainder is the year of the solar cycle for which we must seek in the peripheral shields the initial of the day of the week which corresponds, for the year in question, to the dates furnished by the central square.

"2. The Bottom of the Box.

"In the central rectangle the small arrows attached to the numbers point to the true solar time of sunset for the beginning of each month, Old Style, where they give the numbers of hours between the true noon and the rising or setting of the sun, that is, the semi-diurnal arc of the sun for the date in question. The months are there indicated as on the lid by Roman cyphers. The Arabic numerals 4, 5, &c., are the entire hours, the half-hours being indicated fleur-de-lys, and the quarters by points, and it is possible to obtain from this table the time required to two or three minutes nearly. This table is suited nearly to the latitude of London, the computer having neglected the effect of refraction.

"The elliptical compartments, both above and below the central rectangle, contain the equation of time. The letters in it are the initials of the names of the month, and the numbers indicate either the days of the month, or the quantity of the equation of time. The sign of the sun signifies that at the four dates near which it is found, the equation of time is zero. These four dates divide the year into four periods. For each of these periods the elliptical compartments give with their corresponding dates the maximum of the equation of time expressed in minutes and in seconds. In the two periods when this equation is greatest, we find also the dates at which the equation is 14, 12, or 34 of the corresponding maximum. The sign horizontal_brace symbol in text is a little obscure, but it may be satisfactorily explained if we suppose it to indicate that the numbers which are under it do not belong to the preceding maximum of the equation.

"The legend on the right side of the central rectangle gives the time of high water for the days of full moon, but these times differ considerably from those now observed.

"The legend on the left hand of the central rectangle is still a little enigmatic. The supposition of M. Quetelet, that the numbers in it are more precise indications of the hours of sunrise and sunset, cannot be correct, for these hours are given with more precision in the central rectangle. The constant difference of 48 minutes between each adjacent couple of numbers, makes us suppose, on the contrary, that these numbers relate to the relative diurnal motion of the sun and moon, which is confirmed also by the words in the legend.


"POULKOVA, 131 April 1853."


The word Sou may mean Setting or Southing. Shin means Shining or Rising. <421> Upon the more probable supposition that Sou means Setting, the legend directs us to go Round for Setting, and Back for Rising, which would give —

Setting.Rising.Setting.Rising. January,4h 0′8h 0′4h 0′8h 0′ February,4 487 124 457 13 March,5 366 245 416 19 April,6 245 366 425 18 May,7 124 487 354 25 Beginning ofJune,8 04 08 93 51 July,8 04 08 04 0 August,7 124 487 174 43 September,6 245 366 195 41 October,5 366 245 246 26 November,4 487 124 267 34 December,4 08 03 508 10

The last two columns are a part of the table of the sun's rising and setting from Arthur Hopton's "Concordancy of Yeares," 1616. In the last column of this table 7h 13′ is a misprint for 7h 15′.

"If sou is to be read southing, it means that the southing is 4h, 4h 48′, &c., after rising; but this is not the most likely meaning."


This tract, entitled Isaaci Newtoni Propositiones de Motu, forms No. I. of the Appendix to Professor Rigaud's Historical Essay on the Principia.

© 2018 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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