<1r>

Since one of the most celebrated Historians that | who has yet appeared, doubted | made it a doubt whether it was worth while to write an account of the Roman Empire even when it was at the highest pitch of it's greatness | glory, it may perhaps be thought a vain & trifling attempt |  |  to compile the life of a private man, spent in speculation, & in the exercise of those silent virtues which, however delightfull to the possessor, afford but little entertainment in the description, & are not so apt to strike a vulgar reader as the tumultuary scenes of pomp & action. But But I beleive I may safely affirm that if he who is the subject of this present discourse had flourished in the times {illeg} even by the difficulty discouraged of finding a parallel & why should not the mind of man be as well pleased why should not the mind of man wee be as well pleased <1v> in tracing the progress of Reason in one of our own species & in contemplating the heigth of knowledge it | that particle of Divinity is capable of attaining as in following a Hero through a field of blood & confusion; Alexander himself who for so many ages has been in possession of the first place amongst them valued himself more for the little knowledge he had learned from Aristotle than for all his extensive conquests; And it must be owned that a life which was one continued series of labour, patience, humility, temperance, meekness humanity benevolence ficence & piety without any tincture of vice, exhibits an example which is more universally beneficial, & nearer the reach of the greatest part bulk of mankind than the glory of Conquerors. & imitable than the atchievements of the warriour or the triumph the victorious triumphs of Hercules Nor can it be thought unbecoming a an intelligent being <2r> to consider the various revolutions | to inquire into the increase of Natural discoveries in the Commonwealth of Knowledge, to observe the period of one Hypothesis | System & the rise of another & to pay a due homage & reverence to those Great immortal Deliverers who freed mankind from the bondage of Error & Ignorance.

Though wee should look around the present ages and even go far back into the past, difficult would it be to find an instance of a more exalted Genius & Virtue, of one who penetrated farther into the works of the divine Author of Nature or laid a more solid foundation for a lasting & Universal Empire in Philosophy than Sir Isaac Newton.

<2v>

This Philosopher who was to introduce a freedom of thinking & to teach men not to give up their reason implicitely to any System howsoever dignified or established, came into the world in 1642 when a general | an uncommon spirit of Liberty had taken possession of {illeg} our forefathers & upon that day of the year which will always be celebrated with the highest devotion by the Christian world for having brought a Saviour to mankind. His father died near three months before

<3r>

or

He was born upon Christmas day in the year 1642 near 3 months after the death of his father, so that he is another instance of an remark observation which has been often made; that posthumous children frequently prove most extraordinary persons, & does not add less weight to the observation than Cæsar or Nassau nor will the remark be of less weight if with the names of Cear & Nassau that of Newton be hereafter cited upon this occasion. That there may be no room for contention hereafter about the place of the birth of this Homer of Philosophy let me take note that He was born at the Mannor house of his family at Wolstrope in the parish of Costerworth in the County of Lincoln <3v> 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 which rises near it, it has a fine prospect Eastward, the air is very wholesome & the country about it beautifull. The Mannor 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 stile 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. <4r> Sir Isaac was descended from the elder branch of the family of Sir Iohn Newton Baronet The common Ancestor to them both was Iohn Newton of Westby in the parish of Basingthorp in the County of Lincoln whose forefathers came thither from Lancashire – he had four sons, Iohn Thomas Richard & William; Iohn the eldest who died in 1563 was Sir Isaac's Great Grandfather's Father, he bought an estate of 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 Sir Iohn Newton's Great grandfather & went from Westby to Gunnerby in the same County, where he married the widow of Richard <4v> Hicson of that place. whose son by her first husband left his half brother Thomas Newton a very considerable estate in land, which laid the foundation of those great possessions that are now so worthily enjoyed by that family, & to a great part of which Sir Isaac Newton would have been heir at law if Sir Iohn Newton's father had died without children. I have not dwelt so long on this article out of a vain & false notion that the advantage of birth can add any glory to Sir Isaac Newton ✝ < insertion from p 5 > but to do but I would not omitt doing 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 which does not depend on a frail & precarious succession — < text from f 4v resumes > <5r>

Or

<5v>

His Mother was Hannah the daughter of Iames Aiscough of Market Overton in the County of Rutland a family formerly of great consideration in those parts one of them | which built great Painton 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 now extinct 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 <6r> an understanding virtue & goodness that those who beleive the Tradux animæ & can think that a soul like Sir Isaac Newton's could be formed by any thing less than the immediate operation of a Divine Creator might be apt to ascribe it to her — She continued a widow several years & employed her time in educating her son & distributing | dispensing around her little province the widow's mite of those Christian offices of humanity & benevolence which in country retirements make a whole neighbourhood happy & 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 which from such hands is as acceptable & well pleasing as the Hecatombs of Princes. Upon the high character she bore Her amiable character induced Mr Barnabas Smith <6v> who was Rector of North Witham near Wolstrope & had lived unmarried till he was turned of fifty sent to send a neighbour to make proposals to her; though she had no reason to distrust her own strength & prudence she would not treat with him her self upon a concern in which of all others 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 per annum in land which in those days was a plentiful estate so that Mr Aiscough soon signified his approbation of so advantageous <7r> a match but she would not give her consent till Mr Smith had previously given some of his land to her son Newton & he immediately settled an estate upon him & his heirs exclusive of his own children. She lost her second husband in      & then returned to Wolstrope In the year 1689 her son by Mr Smith was taken ill at Stamford of a malignant feaver, & she went thither to attend him, he recovered but she out of her great tenderness changing beds with him caught his distemper <7v> & died. She left by Mr Smith one son & two daughters Benjamin Mary & Hannah – Benjamin married       Bishop

Mary was married to Thomas Pilkington of            whose         had upwards of

Hannah was married to Robert Barton a younger brother of the Bartons at Brigstock in Northamptonshire who had possessed a considerable estate there several hundred years he was nearly related to the Earl of Rockingham <8r> Lord Griffin      Sir Ieffrey Palmer & many other honourable families in that neighbourhood — Sir Isaac's half brother & sisters left several children eight of which were living at Sir Isaac's decease & inherited his personal esate —– The children by Mr Smith did not lessen the love of Sir Isaac's mother for him for though she was an indulgent parent to them all & gave so fatal a proof of it in one instance Sir Isaac was always deservedly distinguished, & when she died had much the greatest share of her real & personal estate which <8v> together with his paternal inheritance enabled him not only to follow his studies & indulge his insatiable thirst 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 which he gratified so abundantly in his latter days.

Since Plutarch that standing | immortal pattern | model of Biography complains of those who omitted to tell Posterity the names of the Mothers of Nicias Demosthenes Phormio Thrasibulus & Theramenes & highly commends <9r> Plato & Antisthenes for recording the names of the preceptor & Nurse of Alcibiades; I flatter my self I shall be excused for taking this notice of her who gave birth & education to one about whom in after times some perhaps may be as curious & inquisitive as Plutarch was about his countrymen & that the precept & practice | example of that great author will justify | countenance my descending on other occasions into particulars which might seem minute & trivial if they were not supported | justified by such an authority & such a subject –

<9v>

Sir I. Newton told me he had often heard from his mother that when he was born he was so little they could haue put him into a quart pot & so unlikely to liue that two women who were sent to My Lady Packenham at North Witham for some thing for him sate down on a stile by the way & said to one another they need not make haste for the child would certainly be dead before they could get back He for some time wore a bolster <10r> round his neck to keep his head upon his shoulders – This weak & unpromising habit of body in his first infancy he had in common with Descartes Father Paul Mr Pope & many other of those superior mortals Inventors

Sir Isaac went to two little day schools at Killingworth & Stoke till he was 12 years old & then was sent to the Great school at Grantham where he boarded with Mr Clark an Apothecary – The school had then about 80 scholars & was under the care of Mr Stokes who was excellently <10v> well qualified for such a province not only by his learning but by a benevolent heart & so large a share of natural affection that he looked which made him look upon his scholars as his own family & made all take a pleasure in all the wearisome offices of that painfull function a labour of love Sir Isaac was placed in the lowermost form & continued very negligent till (as he often told me) an odd the following accident 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 in his belly which put him to a great deal of pain, as soon <11r> as the school was over he challenged the boy to fight & they went out together into the church yard, the schoolmaster's son came to them whilst they were fighting & clapped one on the back & winked at the other to encourage them both – Thô Sir 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 which the Schoolmaster's son bad him use him like a Coward & rub his nose against the wall & accordingly he pulled him along by the ears & thrust his face against the side of the church – Not content with this bodily victory <11v> he could not rest till he had got above him in the school & though before he never minded 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 & 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 is a very particular instance of the truth of that maxim Vexatio dat intellectum, <12r> Wee must be irritated & stirred before wee can feel or know our own strength of Soul as wel as Body – Resentment first rouzed this great spirit & Emulation that inward spring which pushes boys forward operates with so much more violence than the faint impulse of tame instruction not only urged this young Athlete the School boy to give an early omen of his future triumphs by to gain a compleat victory in this humble scene but was the first occasion of his exerting & improving those powers & faculties which afterwards upon <12v> a higher Theater carried the Philosopher beyond all that had gone before him & far out of the reach of any competitour – He soon made himself master of his pen & not only wrote variety of fine hands some samples of which are still in being | the family but was very expert at | made a good proficiency in drawing which 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 not many years ago was still full of figures of birds beasts men & ships well designed & several persons still remember <13r> many of his drawings some from pictures & some from the life particularly the heads of King Charles the 1st Dr Donne & his worthy schoolmaster Mr Stokes. His natural curiosity & inquisitive temper put him upon observing the composition of the medicines & the whole business of the shop where he liued which gave his mind the first turn to Chymistry & an early inclination to that mistress which he courted afterwards with so much success & which jilts so many but which proued so convenient handmaid to him in his other great designs –

If euer he entred into the <13v> usual sports of his companions it was with a farther view than the meer mechanical part of them & even when he played it was he played philosophically, & he exercised his mind at the same time with his body, the following instance of which he often told himself – on the day of the great storm when Oliuer Cromwell died at which time he was entered into his sixteenth year he jumped first with the wind & then against it & measuring his leap both ways & afterwards comparing it with his leap in a calm he by a sort of rule of three computed the vis of the storm & the effect it had on his jump

<14r>

but his strongest inclination was to mechanicks but this turn of mind appeared much more eminently in his strong propensity & inclination to mechanicks which was his favourite {illeg} amusement – Mrs Vincent who was daughter in law to Mr Clark where Sir Isaac boarded & lived in the same house with him several years, says he spent most of his time when out of school in making knick knacks & models in wood of several kinds for which purpose he had got little saws hatchets hammers & a whole shop full of tools which he used with great dexterity, he would often make little tables & cupboards & other utensils for her & her playfellows to sett their babies & trinkets upon, nor <14v> was he less usefull to his school fellows making lanthorns for them of crimpled paper & kites & was particularly exact in settling their proportions & finding out the proper places where the strings were to be fastened – Mrs Vincent remembers particularly a cart he made with 4 wheels in which he would sit & by turning a windlass or capstern about make it carry him wither he pleased. I find by a letter of Abbé Conti as well as by the Eloge of Leibnitz that he in his latter days spent a great deal of his time in contriving such machines without bringing any of them to perfection

<15r>

2. Vide other side (1) < insertion from f 15v > — (1) He was very diligent in observing the shadow of the sun in the yard of the house where he boarded & used to drive pegs against the walls & roof to mark the hours & half hours by the shade which by degrees he made so exact that the family generally consulted Isaac's dial as it was commonly called – I cannot help observing here that even to the time of his death <16r> he retained this custom of making constant observations in the rooms he cheifly used where the shade of the sun fell, & I have often known him both at Kensington & in Saint Martin's street when any one asked what a clock it was tell immediately by looking where the shadow of the sun touched as exactly as he could have done by his watch. For within doors he made a water clock out of an old box, it was 4 feet high & of a proportionable breadth, it had a dial plate at the top with figures of the hours, the index was turned <16v> by a piece of wood which 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 Sir Isaac went to the University & is still talked off at Grantham — I find in a little paper book which he used when at school a rule for making such a Clepsydra & the proportions that are to be observed *

< text from f 15r resumes > < insertion from f 17r >

* Gassendus takes notice in his preface to his life of Tycho Brahe that the first steps & advances made towards Astronomy by the Chaldæans & Ægyptians were the measuring the motions of the heavenly bodies by the droppings of water & the shadow of the Sun; So that Sir Isaac by a natural instinct fell in his childhood upon those rude the same methods which were taken by the first inventors in the infancy of that science, he began where the art it self did, but made a much swifter progress having by the discoveries of a few years contributed more towards bringing it nearer perfection than had been done by the united labours of thousands of centuries before him Vide (2) being the second leaf of folio (8)

< text from f 15r resumes >

A new windmill happening to be sett up near Grantham Sir 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 was allowed to be as clean & curious a piece of workmanship as the original, he would some times sett it upon the top of the house where he lodged & cloth 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 <15v> above the wheel which | & the Mouse would turn the wheel by endeavouring to get at the corn; he called the Mouse his Miller & would often joke upon his eating up the corn go to 2d leaf of folio (Symbol (crescent with convex side facing down) in text#

<18r>

#Thus early did this Father of experimental 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 material powers | corporeal organs at the same time that he unfolded & inlarged the faculties of his soul — * Vide The Author

< insertion from f 19r >

* 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 which Sir Isaac put very soon in practice, he began to train up & prepare his mind for intellectual discoveries by making mechanicks & substances the imployment | subject & sensible subject of his first studies & & observations , & from marking the shadow of the sun on a wall & poizing a paper Kite in the air & contriving little mills & clocks; raised at length his thoughts to measure the heavens & weigh the Sun & planets as it were in a balance & unlock & disclose all the secret springs & wonderfull mechanism of the vast fabrick of nature.

< text from f 18r resumes >

When Sir Isaac had been about 4 years at Grantham school his mother took him home <18v> to try if he would follow country affairs & the management of his own estate, & put him under the care & instruction of a trusty old servant. It has often been observed that there is a bent in Nature which determines great minds to follow that course in which they are most capable of excelling, & it is no wonder one so vigorous active & aspiring as Sir Isaac's was not to be stopt | kept under or diverted from its proper object | higher nobler pursuits by so low an employment – When any business called him to Grantham he would leave the 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 overlooking the corn or cattle <21r> or any work that was going 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, & dams & sluices & many other Hydrostatick experiments which 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 <21v> Mr Stokes who knew his talents pressed his mother not to bury such hopeful talents but to fit him for the university Mr Aiscough joined in the same request | advice & upon their instances Sir Isaac was again sent to Grantham school for 3 quarters of a year —

His Genius now began to mount upwards apace & to shine out with more strength, he excelled particularly in making verses as he told me himself with some sort of pleasure <22r> which I took the more notice of because in his latter days he often expressed a contempt for Poetry nor is it a wonder that one who for so many years had accustomed | used his mind to reject all Hypotheses & admitt nothing but truth & demonstration should contract a distaste for those the productions whose very essence is of Fancy & Fiction — In every thing he undertook he now discovered an application equal to the pregnancy of his parts & exceeded the most sanguine expectations his Master had conceived of him <22v> There 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 encourage | excite the other boys | his schoolfellows to follow his example, well might he have applied to him that passage in Virgil I Decus I nostrum –

Mr Aiscough had been himself of Trinity College in Cambridge & Dr Babington who was uncle to Mrs Vincent was <23r> then a senior fellow there which determined Sir 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 this promising Genius him out of the shade & obscurity in to an open Horizon & a more spacious field ex umbraticâ Palæstra in Solem et pulvere; Let me, before he takes his rise | begins his flight & soars {to} those heights where so few {can} follow him. stop awhile to consider how far others had <23v> gone before him, what lamps were hung out to light him thro those myriads of worlds which he travelled over what glimmering rays he had were hung out to light him what ground was given him δὸι που σω 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 carried | rapt upwards by a Divine Energy through | into the boundless expanse of nature {th}e frame of which it had {no}t from the beginning entred {in} to the heart of man <24r> to conceive videlicit in pursuit of Comets

Here followes an account of the State of Philosophy &c. motion of Comets tides &c – before Sir Isaac's discoveries.

© 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

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC