Since one of the most celebrated Historians of Antiquity doubted wether it was worth while to write an account of the Roman Empire, even when it was at the highest pitch of its glory; it may perhaps be thought a waste of time, & a low \a dry/ and unaffecting employment to compile the life of a private man, spent in speculation, & in the exercise of those silent virtues wch, however delightfull to the possessor, afford but little entertainment in the description, & are not so apt to enterta strike a vulgar reader as the tumultuary scenes of pomp & action. But sure I am [1] that if he who makes the subject of the present discourse had flourished in those times of wch he <2> has left so valuable a treatise, his life would \probably/ have made as shining a figure in the works of the famous Biographer as the greatest Heroes, with this only difference that it would not have been so easie to have found a Parallell for since that author told his Imperial Pupil had he thought his relation of the exploits & actions of the Greek & Roman Captains but an imperfect {illeg} because Fortune had so great a share in them, & therefore added a {distinct} treatise of their {sayings} & speeches |thought he had given but an imperfect Idea of the Greek & Roman Captains by the reciting {sic} of their military actions & exploits |in wch fortune had so great a share| because Fortune so often turns the Die of war & therefore addressed to his Imperial pupil a distinct treatise of their speeches & discourses as the more sincere and true picture of {virtuous agents} beings| |the productions of their understanding \mind/ as the more true & lively image of their better part|; it is not to be imagined he would have omitted to deliver down to Posterity \some account of/ such sublime productions \dis discoveries/ as do honour to Humane Nature, & of wch the Inventor might have said without vain glory In these Fortune had no part.


|And {illeg} \But/| Why should not the mind of man be as well pleased in tracing the progress of Reason in one of our own species &, in contemplating the heigth of knowledge, that particle of Divinity[2] \it/ is capable of attaining, as in following a Conqueror throu a field of blood & confusion. A life wch was one continued scene \series/ of study \labour/[3] , patience humility temperance meekness humanity beneficence & piety \& piety/ without any tincture of vice, exhibits an example wch is more universally beneficial \beneficial &/ imitable & beneficial than the atchievements of a Cesar or the triumphs of an Alexander. Nor can it be thought unbecoming \What can be more becoming/ an intelligent being, |than| \to enquire into the increase of Natural discoveries & the enlargement of the our powers,/ to consider the various revolutions in the Coonwealth of Knowledge <4> the Period of one Hypothesis \System/ & the rise of another;[4] \a new system/ to inquire into the increase of Natural discoveries & the inlargement of the powers of our species \mankind/; to follow \travell with/ those speculative Conquerors who have extended the limits of \humane/ science & opened new worlds to our understanding; & to pay a due homage & reverence to the great Deliverers who freed mankind \us mankind/ from the bondage[5] of Error & Ignorance. Thou wee should look around the present age & even go far back into the past, difficult would it be to find an instance of a more exalted virtue, or of one who penetrated farther into the works of the Divine Author of Nature or \and/ laid a more \so/ solid \a/ foundation for a lasting & universal Empire in Philosophy than \as/ Sr Isaac Newton.

He was born upon Christmas day in the year 1642, near three months after the death of his Father <5> so that he is another instance of the |  an accidental observation which has been often made, |tho without tho it can have no foundation in reason or the nature of things| that posthumous children[6] frequently prove most extraordinary persons, [nor will the remark be of less weight, if with the names of Cesar & Nassau that of Newton be hereafter cited upon this occasion][7]

[8] [That there may be no contention hereafter \in after times/ about the place of the birth of this Homer of Philosophy, let me take notice that] He was born at the Mannor house of his family at Wolstrope in the parish of Costerworth in the County of Lincoln \wch lies/ six miles South of Grantham, in the great road from London to the North, it lies on the West side of the valley of the River Witham /in a very wholesome air & beautifull country\ <6> which rises near it, it has a fine prospect Eastward, the air is \in a/ very wholesome \air/ & the country about it beautifull. The Mannour \of/ is of a considerable extent & holds court Leet & Court Baron & by the copies of the Rolls appears to have been for many generations in the family of the Newtons, who stiled themselves Lords of the Mannour of Mortimer in the parishes or precincts of Wolstrope & Costerworth in the Soak of Grantham in the County of Lincoln. Sr Isaac was descended from the elder branch of the family of Sr Iohn \Michael/ Newton Bartt \& Kt of the Bath./ The coon Ancestor to them both was Iohn Newton of Westby in the parish of Basingthorp in <7> the County of Lincoln whose forefathers came thither from Lancashire. He had four sons Iohn Thomas Richard & William; Iohn the eldest who died in 1553[9] was Sr Isaac's Great Grandfather's father, he bought an estate at Wolstrope of Michael Newton of Kirk Stoke in the same County & removed his children from Westby thither, where his posterity have continued ever since. William the youngest was Sr Iohn |Michael| Newton's Great Grandfather's |father| & went from Westby to Gunnerby in the same County where he (married the widow of Richard Hicson of that place, whose son by her first husband left his half brother Thomas Newton a very considerable estate in land, wch) laid the <8> foundation of these great possessions that are now so worthily enjoyed by that family, & to a great part of wch Sr Isaac Newton would haue been heir at law if Sr Iohn |Michael| Newton's \Grand/father had died without children.      I haue not dwelt so long on this article out of a vain & false notion that the advantage of birth can \could/ add any glory to Sr Isaac Newton, but to do justice to the honourable family who are of the same blood with him, & to whose name he has given a dignity & lustre above the proudest titles, & a duration wch does not depend upon a frail & precarious succession.

His mother was Hannah the daughter of Iames Aiscough <9> of Market Overton in the County of Rutland; a family formerly of great consideration in those parts [one of wch built great Paunton steeple, a curious fabrick between Grantham & Colsterworth where was the old Roman city Causennis] Her mother was of the antient family of the Bliths of Stranson in the County of Lincoln {illeg}, so that she was on both sides of a fair & honourable extraction but what was of much more consequence to her son, she was a woman of so extraordinary an understanding & virtue & goodness that those who beleive the Tradux animæ & can think that a soul like Sr Isaac Newton's could be formed by any thing less than <10> the immediate operation of a divine Creator, might be apt Symbol (sloping cross) in text < insertion from the left margin > Symbol (sloping cross) in textto ascribe to her \some/ many of those extraordinary qualities with wch it was endowed – < text from p 10 resumes > to ascribe it to her. She continued a widow several years & employed her tme in educating her son & dispensing around her little province the widow's mite of those Christian offices of humanity & benevolence wch in country retirements make a whole neighbourhood happy * < insertion from the left margin > * or \and &/ send up to heaven an odour of sweet smell at the same time that they warm & cherish all within the reach of their influence — < text from p 10 resumes > & at the same time that they cherish & warm all within the reach of their influence, send up to heaven an odour of sweet smell [& a sacrifice, wch from such hands is as acceptable & well pleasing as the Hecatombs of Princes] Her amiable character induced Mr Barnabas Smith, who was rector of North Witham near Wolstrope & had lived unmarried till he was turned <11> of fifty, to send a neighbour to make proposals to her: thou she had no reason to distrust her own strength & prudence, she would not treat \with him/ personally, upon a concern [10]in wch passion generally bears so great a sway, but referred him to her brother Aiscough who was Rector of Burton Cogles in Lincolnshire. Mr Smith besides his Rectory had near £500 pr anm. in land[11] wch in those days was a plentifull estate, so that Mr Aiscough soon signified his approbation of so advantageous |a| match, but she would not consent till Mr Smith had previously settled some of his land upon her son Newton; [12] [wch was] a strong instance of the care & love she had of her son by her first husband, the reverse of wch is too often seen in widows upon such occasions


She lived with \had one son & two daughters by/ Mr Smith and |lived with him at| North Witham till the year 1689 when he died & then |she| returned to Wolstrope. In the year 1689 her son by Mr Smith was taken ill at Stamford of a malignant feauer & she went thither to attend him, he recovered, but she out of her great tenderness changing beds with him caught his distemper & died. [She left by Mr Smith one son & two daughters Benjamin Mary & Hannah. Benjamin married        Bishop

Mary was married to Tho. Pilkington


Hannah was married to Rob. Barton a younger brother \son/ of the Bartons of Brigstock in Northamptonshire who \had/ possessed a considerable estate there several hundred years, he was nearly related to the Earl of Rockingham the Lord Griffin Sr Ieffrey Palmer & many other honourable families in that neighbourhood, Sr Isaac's half brother & sisters left several children, eight of wch were living at Sr Isaac's decease & inherited his personal estate] The children by Mr Smith did not lessen the love of Sr Isaac's mother for him, for thou she was an indulgent parent to them all, & gave so fatal a proof of it in one instance, Sr Isaac was always deservedly distinguished <14> & when she died had much the greatest share of her real & personal estate, wch together with his paternal inheritance enabled him not only to follow his studies & indulge his insatiable passion of searching thoroughly into the works of Nature by making experiments upon all the varieties of matter, but to exercise early that disposition of charity & liberality wch he gratified so abundantly in his latter days.         Since Plutarch[13] that standing pattern of Biography |seems to| complain {sic} of those who omitted to tell Posterity \to record to tell Posterity/ the names of the Mothers of Nicias & Demosthenes Phormio Thras Cullis & Theramenes & highly coends Plato & Antisthenes for recording |& observes that Plato & Antisthenes did not think it below them| |to record| the names of the preceptor & nurse of Alcibiades, I flatter my self I shall be excused <15> for taking this notice of her who gave birth & education to one, about whom in aftertimes some perhaps may be as curious & inquisitive as Plutarch \that author[14] / was about his countrymen; & \hope/ that the precept & practice of that great author |that inimitable standing pattern of this kind of writing| will justify \countenance/ my descending upon other occasions into particulars wch might seem minute & trivial if they were not supported /justified\ by such an authority & such a subject.

Sr I. N. told me he had often heard from his mother that when he was born he |was| was so little they could have put him into a quart pot, |not above half the bigness much below very much less than \below/ the usual size of children| & so unlikely to live that two women who were sent to My lady Packenham at North Witham \a neighbour/ for something <16> for him sate down on a stile by the way, & said {sic} \saying/ the one to the other the one to the other they need not make haste, for the child would certainly be dead before they could get back. He for some time {wore a} bolster round his neck to keep \support/ his head upon his shoulders –

This weak & unpromising habit of body in his first infancy he had in coon with Des-Cartes Father Paul Mr Pope & many other \of those/ superiour Geniuses \mortales Inventors */ < insertion from the left margin > who are strong instances of the ill policy as well as inhumanity of that barbarous law of Lycurgus wch seems calculated rather for the brute creation than \a society of/ reasonable beings & would have deprived the world of so many extraordinary lights wch have proved of the greatest service & \ornament/ honour to their countries < text from p 16 resumes > [as if the extraordinary portion of spirits wch animates such forward souls overpowered & oppressed the young matter & soft |tender| substance wch cloathes them.] Sr Isaac went to two little day schools at Killingworth & Stoke till he was 12 years old & then was sent to Grantham where he boarded with Mr <17> Clarke an Apothecary – The school had then about 80 scholars & was under the care of Mr Stokes who was excellently well qualified for such a province not only by his learning but by a benevolent heart & a large share of natural affection wch made him look upon his scholars as his own family, [& take a pleasure in all the wearisome offices of that laborious function][15] Sr Isaac was placed in the lowermost form & continued very negligent till (as he often told me) the following accident \incident/ reclaimed him. When he was the last in the lowermost class but one, the boy next above him as they were going to school, gave him a kick on {sic} his belly wch put him to a great deal of pain, as soon as the school was over <18> he challenged the boy to fight, & they went out together into the Church yard, [the school master's son came to them whilst they were fighting & clapped one on the back & winked at the other to encourage them both.] [16]Thou Sr Isaac was not so lusty as his antagonist he had so much more spirit & resolution that he beat him till he declared he would fight no more, [upon wch the school master's son bad him use him \Sr Isaac treat the other/ like a Coward & rub his nose against the wall & accordingly Sr Isaac pulled him along by the ears & thrust his face against the side of the Church.] Not content with this bodily victory he could not rest till he had got above him in the school, & thou before he never minded <19> his book (as you may beleive said he, by my being the last in the form) he from that time began to follow it with great application, he had several contests with his adversary, got his place & lost it \again/ & then retrieved it again, till at length he not only kept his ground over him but continued rising till he was the first in the school. This \which/ is a very particular instance of the truth of that saying of the {Poet} |that there is some foundation for the maxim| Vexatio dat intellectum; Wee must be irritated & stirred before wee can feel or know our own strength of soul as well as body. Resentment first rowzed this great spirit, & Emulation that inward spring wch operates with so much more violence |  force than the faint impulse of tame instruction <20> [urged the {sic} young Athlete to give upon \upon/ this {sic} \in this {illeg} sphere/ humble scene an early omen of his future triumphs upon a higher |  another theater][17] He soon made himself Master of his Pen, & not only wrote variety of hands \some samples of wch are still in the family being/ but made a good proficiency in drawing < insertion from the left margin > in an old pockett book in wch he has writt his name & the date of the year 1659 there are several rules for drawing & making colours ——, < text from p 20 resumes > wch he learned as he did every thing else, by dint of his own inclination & by observing nature. The wall of the chamber where he lay at Grantham was a few years ago still full of figures of birds beasts men & ships well designed, & several persons remember many of his drawings both from pictures & the life, particularly the heads of K. C. the 1st Dr Donne & his worthy schoolmaster Mr Stokes. His natural <21> curiosity & inquisitive temper put him upon observing the composition of the medicines & the whole business of the shop where he lived, wch gave his mind the first turn to Chymistry & an early inclination to that mistress [wch jilts so many but proved a convenient handmaid to him in his other great designs][18] . If ever he entred into the usual sports of his companions it was with a farther view than the meer mechanical part of them & he {sic} exercised his mind at the same time with his body, the following instance of wch he often told himself |He used to say one of the first experiments he made was| on the day of the great storm when Oliuer Cromwell died (at wch time Sr Isaac was entred into his sixteenth year) he jumped first with the wind & then against it & <22> measuring his leap both ways & afterwards comparing it with his leap in a calm he, by a sort \the/ of rule of three computed the vis of the storm; * < insertion from the left margin > * & when his companions seemed surprized at his saying that wind was a foot stronger than any he had known before, he would carry them to this place & shew them the measure & marks of his several leaps < text from p 22 resumes > but this cast \turn/ of mind appeared much more eminently in his strong propensity to mechanicks wch was his first passion & favourite inclination[19] \& favourite amusement/. Mrs Vincent who was daughter in law to Mr Clark \at Grantham/ where Sr Isaac boarded & lived \lodged & boarded lived there/ in the same house with him several years & is still living \died but lately/ said {sic} he spent most of his time when out of the school in making knick knacks & models in wood of several kinds, for wch purpose he had got little saws hatchets haers & a whole shop full \compleat sett of/ of {sic} tools wch he used \handled/ with great dexterity; he would often make <23> little tables & cupboards & other \and/ utensils for her & her play fellows to sett their babies & trinkets upon, nor was he less usefull to his schoolfellows making for whom he made lanthorns of crumpled paper & Kites, he was particularly \very/ exact in setting the proportions \of the latter/ & finding out the proper places where the strings were to be fastened. * < insertion from the left margin > {in} \He/ already began to search out & observe & observing what form |body or curve| would find the least resistance from a fluid the air in a fluid < text from p 23 resumes > Mrs Vincent remembered particularly a cart he made with four wheels in wch he would sit & by turning a windlass or capstern about make it carry him whither he pleased x < insertion from the left margin > x Hannover 10. Decr. 1716. Monr Leibnitz a travaillé pendant toute sa vie a inventer des machines qui n'ont pas reussi. Il a voulu faire une espece de moulin a vent pour les mines un carrosse qui tire sans chevaux &c — < text from p 23 resumes >

The Abbot Conti says in one of his letters to Sr Isaac from Hanr after Leibnitz's death that he imployed himself to the last in makeing such machines without bringing any of them to perfection. Fontenelle in his Eloge says the same thing.


He was very diligent in observing the shadows of the sun in the yard of the house where he boarded, & used to drive pegs against the wall to mark the hours & half hours, wch by degrees he made so exact that the family generally consulted Isaac's Dial as it was coonly called; [20] even to the time of his death he retained this custom of making observations in the rooms he cheifly used where the shade of the sun fell, & when he had an opportunity of doing that hardly ever looked upon his watch. For within doors he made a water clock out of an old box, it was four feet high & of a proportionable breadth, it had a dial plate at the top with figures of the hours, the index to wch was <25> turned by a piece of wood wch either fell or rose by the dropping of the water, this stood always in the room where he lay & he took care every morning to supply it with it's proper quantity of water, it was left in the house long after Sr Isaac went to the University & is still talked of at Grantham I find in a little paper book wch he used when at school a rule for making such a Clepsydra. & Gassendus in the short History of Astronomy before his life of Tycho Brahe takes notice, that the first steps & advances made towards it by the Chaldæans & Egyptians were the measuring the motions of the heavenly bodies by the droppings of water <26> & by the shadow of the Sun, so that Sr Isaac by a natural instinct |  impulse fell in his childhood upon the same rude \rude/ methods wch were taken by the first inventors of Astronomy in the infancy of that Science; he began where the art it self did, but made a much swifter progress, [& by the discoveries of a few years contributed more towards bringing it nearer perfection than had been done by the united labours of many \all the/ ages before him.] A new windmill happening to be sett up near Grantham Sr Isaac's imitating spirit was soon excited & by frequently prying into the fabric of it whilst the workmen were about it he made such a model as \of it wch/ was allowed to be as clean & curious <27> a piece of workmanship as the original, he would sometimes sett it upon the top of the house where he lodged, & cloath it with sail cloth so that the wind would readily take it & he had contrived the inside in such a manner that he could make a mouse turn it; sometimes by tying a string to the tail of the Mouse & pulling it, the mouse would go forward by way of resistance in a sort of turnspit wheel & so make the Mill go, & at other times he would put a little corn above the Wheel & the mouse would turn the one \wheel/ by endeavouring to get at the other \corn/, he called the Mouse his Miller & would joke upon [his eating up the corn].[21]      Thus early did this Father of experimental <28> Philosophy make even his sports & amusements subservient to that great design, betimes accustom & habituate his nerves & muscles to correspond & keep pace with his imagination, & form a pliableness & activity in his corporeal organs at the same time that he unfolded & enlarged the faculties of his soul. The Author of that excellent work the History of the Royal Society observes that when Plato enjoined his Scholars to begin with Geometry, he designed they should handle material things & grow familiar with visible objects before they entred on the retired speculations of more abstracted sciences; a lesson wch Sr Isaac put very soon in practice < insertion from the left margin > He very soon put in practice the lesson wch Plato gave his scholars to {illeg} begin with Geometry \handle/ material things & grow familiar with visible objects before they entred on the retired speculations of more abstracted sciences, and trained up & prepared his mind – < text from p 28 resumes > <29> he began to train up & prepare his mind for intellectual discoveries by making mechanicks & sensible substances the subject of his first studies & observations, & from marking the shadow of the sun on a wall & poizing a paper Kite in the air & contriving a clock & a mill, raised at length his thoughts to measure the heavens & \to/ weigh the Sun & the {sic} Planets as it were \in scales & the Sun/, in a balance,[22] & to unlock & disclose all the secret springs & wonderful mechanism of the vast Fabrick of Nature. When Sr Isaac had been about 4 years at Grantham school his mother took him home to try if he would follow country affairs & the <30> manage {most} of his own estate & for that purpose put him under the care & instruction of a trusty & intelligent servant. It has often been observed that there is a biass in Nature wch determines men to follow that wch they are most capable of, * < insertion from the left margin > or That happy abundance of animal spirits < text from p 30 resumes > [the same vivida vis] wch qualifies the soul to arrive at any excellency, bends & directs all it's faculties to the pursuit of that perfection for wch they are peculiarly adapted, & it is no wonder a mind so vigorous & aspiring as Sr Isaac's was not to be kept under or diverted from it's proper objects by so low an employment. When any business called him to Grantham he would leaue the <31> servant to manage what was to be done & slip away to his old lodging & entertain himself there with a book till it was time to return home & instead of over looking the corn or cattle or \giving directions[23] about/ any work that was going on forward in the farm he would sit under a tree with a book, or go to a running stream & make wheels in imitation of over & undershot mills & many other Hydrostatical experiments, wch he would often be so intent upon as to forget his dinner. His Governour soon gave up all hopes of one who was so extravagantly idle as to neglect his meals & made frequent complaints of his pupil, but his old Master <32> Mr Stokes who knew his worth pressed his mother not to bury such hopefull talents but to fitt him for the University in wch he was seconded by Mr Aiscough who easily prevailed to haue him sent again to Grantham school. for His Genius \He/ now began to mount upwards apace & to shine out with more strength, he \& as he told me himself/ excelled particularly in making |verses| verses * < insertion from the left margin > * that \* wch is generally the/ first blossom of a fine Genius < text from p 32 resumes > as he told me himself with some sort of pleasure wch I took the more notice of \his mentioning this particular/ because in his later days he often expressed a contempt \a dislike of/ for Poetry, ⊛ < insertion from the left margin of p 33 > ⊛ not unlike Plato who \thou he/ had addicted himself to Poetry in his younger days would not in his serious years allow even Homer a place in his Coonwealth – 5. Vol. of Cicero's Epistles p. 625 – < text from p 32 resumes > – nor is it a wonder \can it be wondered/ that one who for so many years had used \accustomed/ his mind <33> to reject all Hypotheses & admitt nothing but truth & demonstration should contract a distaste for [those \the/ productions whose very essence of Fancy & Fiction].[24] In everything he undertook he discovered an application equal to the pregnancy of his parts & exceeded the most sanguine expectations his master had conceived of him; there {sic} is a tradition at Grantham that when this favourite disciple was to leave him the good old man with the pride of a father put him in the most conspicuous place in the school & with tears in his eyes made a speech in his praise to excite the other boys to follow his example; well might he have applyed \applying/ to him that passage <34> in Virgil I decus I nostrum. Mr Aiscough had been himself of Trinity College in Cambridge & Dr Babington who was uncle to Mrs Vincent & whose friendship Sr Isaac's {sic} \mother/ could depend upon was \then/ a senior fellow there wch determined her \Sr Isaac's mother/ to send him to that University & College where he was admitted the 5th of Iune 1660 being then in the 18th year of his age. Having now brought him out of the shade & obscurity into an open Horizon & a more spacious field; Let me before he takes his rise & soars to those heigths where so few can follow him, stop a while to consider how far others had gone before him, what glimmering rays[25] \lamps were held out to light him/ he had to <35> light him [throu those myriads of worlds wch he travelled over] What ground was given him to stand upon [whilst he turned the spheres & unravelled | laid open all the motions of the Universe] & where he had no guide, found no place to rest the soal of his foot upon, but was rapt \carried/ upwards by a divine Energy, into \throu/ the boundless expanse of Nature, the frame of wch it had not from the beginning entered into the heart of man to conceive – –

Here follows a state of Philosophy & an account of the prevailing notions of the Mundane System, Comets, the Moon Tides Colours &c before Sr I N discovered

Boyle – Harvey Wren &c



Having given this retrospect of the prevailing Hypotheses \wch prevailed/ before Sr I. N. appeared – Let me now proceed to shew how soon he struck out new paths & with what Giant Steps he advanced to those heights where Philosophy now stands ——

[1] or it is highly probable

[2] or it

[3] or mental labour

[4] a new Theory

[5] darkness of ignorance

[6] Mahomet – {vide {illeg}}

[7] or [& does not add less weight to the observation than Cesar & Nassau]

[8] Is not this paragraph better left out?

[9] X

[10] where the {illeg} often fall

[11] wch are luxury was carried {illeg}

[12] or leave this out

[13] {illeg} angry with {illeg} for not {illeg} the name of the mother of {illeg} 5. b. Plut. p. 266

[14] Plutarch tells Cato's plays when a boy 443. 6. b

[15] or
& make all the wearisome offices of that painfull function a labour of Love – |stet.|

[16] stet

[17] or.
[not only urged the school boy to gain a compleat victory in this humble scene but was the first occasion of his exerting & improving those faculties wch afterwards upon a higher Theater carried the Philosopher beyond all that had gone before him & far out of the reach of any competition]

[18] or
[wch he courted afterwards with so much success & wch proved so convenient a hand maid to him in his other great designs –

[19] amusement.

[20] is this not as well left out

[21] or
upon his taking more than his toll.

[22] Isaiah – c - 40 - v - 12 -

[23] giving directions

[24] or
the productions of Fancy & Fiction –

[25] glimpses

© 2019 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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