Catalogue Entry: OTHE00077

Chapter XVI

Author: David Brewster

Source: Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: 1855).

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]


Memorandum sent to me by the late Rev. Mr. Turner, and Edleston's Correspondence, &c., p. xlii.


This must have been a refracting telescope.


In the Memorandum by the late Rev. Mr. Turnor above mentioned, he says, "I have some recollection that Mr. Jones the tutor mentioned, in one of his lectures on optics, that the reflecting telescope belonging to Sir Isaac Newton was then <86> lodged in the observatory over the gateway; and I am inclined to think I once saw it, and that a finder was affixed to it."


Turner's Newtoniana, in the possession of the Royal Society.


Wickins, (Ds. Wickins), to whom Newton had frequently lent money, as we have stated in vol. i. p. 32, note, died on the 19th April 1719. See Gentleman's Magazine, April 1802.


We have given this and the two following letters verbatim, as possessing a higher degree of interest than any abstract of them that could be made.


The following method of making the Leucatello's Balsam I have found in Sir Isaac's own hand: "Put Venus turpentine one pound into a pint of the best damask rose-water; beat these together till it look white, then take four ounces of bees-wax, red sanders half an ounce, oil of olives of the best a pint, one ounce of oil of St. John's wort, and half a pint of sack. Set it (the sack) on the fire in a new pipkin, add to it the oil and wax, let it stand on a soft fire where it must not boil, but melt till it be scalding hot. Then take it off. When it is cold, take out the cake, and scrape off the dirt from the bottom. Take out the sack, wipe the pipkin, put in the cake again, set it on the fire, let them melt together, and then put in also the turpentine and sanders; let them not boil, but be well melted and mixed together; take it off and stir it now and then till it is cold. If you would have it to take inwardly, add to it when it is off from the fire, half an ounce of powder of scuchineal (cochineal) and a little natural balsam.

"For the measell, plague, or smallpox, a half an ounce in a little broth, take it warm, and sweat after it. And against poison and the biting of a mad dog; for the last you must dip lint and lay it upon the wound, besides taking it inwardly. There are other virtues of it; for wind, cholic, anoint the stomach, and so for bruises."

Mrs. Vincent told Dr. Stukely that Sir Isaac was a great Simpler. The Doctor says that "his breakfast was orange-peel boiled in water, which he drank as tea, sweetened with sugar, and with bread and butter. He thinks this dissolves phlegm." Lord Pembroke told the Doctor that when Newton "got a cold, he lay in bed till it was gone, though for two or three days' continuance, and thus came off the illness by perspiration."


Dr. Stukely says, that "Mr. Newton of this town was five years under Sir Isaac's tuition at Cambridge."


The passage alluded to in Dr. Stukely's letter was the following: — When Sir Isaac once laughed, "'twas upon occasion of asking a friend, to whom he had lent <92> Euclid to read, what progress he had made in that author, and how he liked him? He answered hy desiring to know what use and benefit in life that study would be to him. Upon which Sir Isaac was very merry." — Stukely's Letter to Dr. Mead.


Afterwards Sir John Ellis, Master of Caius.


See Charles Montague's letter to Newton in Chap. xix., and Monk's Life of Bentley, pp. 224, 226, 346, 360.


John Francis Vigani, a native of Verona, after having taught chemistry at Cambridge for twenty years, was invested by the University with the title of Professor of Chemistry. Dr. Bentley fitted up for him in Trinity College an old lumber <93> house, as an elegant chemical laboratory, in which he lectured for some years. — Monk's Life of Bentley, p. 159. His lectures still exist in manuscript in the University library.

Among the anecdotes collected by Conduitt, I find the following relative to this chemist. It is signed C. C., (Catherine Conduitt,) Sir Isaac's niece. "Upon Vigani's (with whom he was very intimate, and took great pleasure in discoursing with him on chemistry) telling him a loose story about a nun, he broke off all acquaintance with him." — C. C.


Dr. Stukely mentions some other anecdotes of Newton's absence: — "When he had friends to entertain, if he went into his study to fetch a bottle of wine, there was danger of his forgetting them. He would sometimes put on his surplice to go to St. Mary's church." When he was "going home to Colsterworth from Grantham, he once led his horse up Spittlegate Hill, at the town-end. When he designed to remount, his horse had slipped the bridle and gone away without his perceiving it, and he had only the bridle in his hand all the while." — Letter to Conduitt.

"Newton formerly would go the length of a street before he came to himself and saw that he was not dressed, and therefore had to hasten back to his house quite ashamed." — Krausen's Umständliche Bücher Historie, part i. p. 2. Leipsic, 1715. —


Dr. Stukeley informs us, "that he heard him say, that during the course of his most intense studies, he learned to go to bed at twelve, finding, by experience, that if he exceeded that hour but a little, it did him more harm in his health than a whole day's study."


Dr. Stukely says, that "he wrote a piece of chemistry, explaining the principles of that mysterious art upon experimental and mathematical proof, and he valued it much; but it was unluckily burned in his laboratory, which casually took fire. He would never undertake that work again, — a loss much to be regretted. Mr. Newton, of this town, tells me likewise, that several sheets of his Optics were burnt by a candle left in his room, but I suppose he could recover them again." Dr. Newton, as we see above, gives this only as a report.


I have not been able to discover what writings are here alluded to. They may have been his theological writings, such as his Irenicum, or, "Doctrines tending to Peace," which will be afterwards noticed.


This was the famous frost of 1683-4, which hegan early in December, and continued without intermission till the 5th of February.


"The Sacred Theory of the Earth, containing an account of the original of the Earth, and of all the general changes which it hath already undergone, or is to undergo, till the consummation of all things." The Latin edition was published in 4to in 1681, and at the King's request, it was translated into English, the first part, in folio, appearing in 1684, and the second in 1689.


The copy of this letter, which I have found along with the last of Burnet's, among the Portsmouth papers, is in Newton's own hand, but has no date or signature. The two first letters of the correspondence I have not met with.


As this letter is very interesting, I have given it in the APPENDIX, No. VI.


These views of Leibnitz are contained in his Protogœa, an Essay which he published in the Leipsic Journal for 1683. It was published separately at Göttingen by Scheidius in 1749. See the Acta Eruditorum, 1717.


"See vol. i. chap. xii. p. 301. One of these letters is addressed to Crompton, and the other to Flamsteed. This last letter is dated 1680 in place of 1681, in the General Dictionary, vol. vii. p. 791


I find among these papers a table showing the R. ascension, declination, and culmination of the comet, from December 16, 1680, to February 1, 1681, as made in Maryland, America, in west longitude 75°, and north latitude 38° 30′, by Mr. Arthur Storer, a nephew of Dr. Babington, at the river Patuxant, near Hunting Creek. See Newtoni Opera, tom. iii. p. 145; Principia, lib. iii. prop. xli.


March 7, 1681. This is the letter which I have said is not extant, in vol. i. p. 302, note 1.


I found half of Hill's letter to Flamsteed, dated Canterbury, Dec. 29, 1681, containing observations on the comet in Nov. 11, 1680, and Jan. 3, and Feb. 3, 1681.


Newton afterwards acknowledged, in the Principia, the correctness of Flamsteed's opinion.


See vol. i. p. 303, note.


April 16, 1681. General Dictionary, vol. vii. p. 791


This portion of the letter seems to have been intended to be sent to Flamsteed through Crompton. See APPENDIX, No. VII.


All the published letters except one are from Newton to Flamsteed; and this one from Flamsteed to Newton, dated Sept. 25, 1685, is very different from the one published, which must have been printed from a scroll, and greatly altered by Flamsteed. The unpublished letters, six in number, were written between December 1684 and October 1686.


Mr. Macaulay says, and no doubt on good authority, that this was the venerable Duke of Ormond. I have followed, in the list of governors present, a manuscript account of the meeting, which was sent to Sir Isaac Newton, and which contains the names of those who voted for and against the mandate.


See Macaulay's Hist. of England, vol. ii. pp. 293, 294.


This interesting anecdote I found in a manuscript of Mr. Conduitt, intended for insertion in his proposed Life of Newton.


"The Chancellor Jeffrys," says Mr. Edleston, "alluded twice to his having himself formerly been a member of the University. Until some other College can establish a claim to him, Trinity College is liable to the suspicion of having had him for an alumnus. A 'Georgius Jeffreys' was admitted pensioner there March 15th, 1661-2, under Mr. Hill, and he would therefore be a year junior to Newton:' — Correspondence, &c. p. lviii. note 90.


See Burnet's Hist. of his Times, vol. ii. p. 697, or 8vo edit. vol. iii. p. 149. — Macaulay's Hist. of England, vol. ii. p. 180.


Dr. Pechel was restored to his offices on the 24th of October 1688. "After the Revolution he starved himself to death, in consequence of having been rebuked by Archbishop Sancroft for drunkenness and other loose habits; and after four days' abstinence, would have eaten, but could not." — Note of Lord Dartmouth upon Burnet's Hist. vol. ii. p. 698, or vol. iii. 8vo, p. 150.


See Macaulay's Hist. &c. vol. ii. p. 287, &c.


When the late Duke of Somerset, as his Grace informed me, visited the Marquis de Laplace at Arcueil, he found him in his study dressed in a sort of uniform, prepared to go to the Senate. Having in his hand the first edition of the Principia, he said to the Duke, "This is the best book that was ever written."


See vol. i. p. 308, and APPENDIX, vol. i., No. VIII

[40] The other letters are given in vol. i., APPENDIX, No. XII., p.465.


The votes stood thus: —

Sir Robert Sawyer,125 Mr. Newton,122 Mr. Finch,117

In some of the voting papers he is called præclarus vir, and in others, doctissimus, integerrimus, venerabilis et reverendus. — Edleston Correspondence, &c., p. lix.


In referring to the publication of the Principia, Laplace remarks "that the principles of the social system were laid in the following year, and that Newton concurred in their establishment." — Système du Monde, p. 372. Edit. 1824.


Thirteen Letters from Sir Isaac Newton to Dr. Covel, printed in 1848 by Dawson Turner, Esq., from the originals in his possession.


Thirteen Letters, &c., pp. 9, 10.


See APPENDIX, No. VIII. In the library of Queen's College, Oxford, (cclxxxiv. fol. 143,) there is a paper entitled "Reasons given for the taking the oaths of allegiance to King William, by I. N." This is doubtless an extract from Newton's letter to Covel.


Newton appears not to haTe enjoyed good health during his residence in London. He was confined to his room for some days in the middle of March, and in May he was attacked by "a cold and bastard pleurisy." His address was "at Mr. More's house, in the broad century at the west end of Westminster Abbey."


See vol. i. pp. 339, 340.


See vol. i. p. 215.

[49] Cole's MSS., vol. xvi. folio 350.


Edleston's Correspondence, &c., p. lix. note 96.


June 30th, 1691.


Dec. 13, 1691.


Jan. 26, 1691-2.


Feb. 16, 1691-2.


In these letters, which are published in Lord King's Life of Locke, Edit. 1830, vol. i. pp. 400-414, there are interesting details about Newton's Historical account of two notable corruptions of Scripture, to which we shall return when we treat of his theological writings.


See vol. i., APPENDIX, p. 463.


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 129.


Wallisii Opera, vol. ii. pp. 391-396. This communication was contained in two letters, dated August 27, and September 17, 1692.


Dated 717 March 1693, published in Raphson's Fluxions, pp. 119, 120.


This letter is dated Cambridge, 1626 October 1693, and is published in Edleston's Correspondence, &c., Appendix, No. xxiv. p. 276.


This letter, of which there is only a fragment, is dated Cambridge, July 7, 1692, and is published in Edleston's Correspondence, &c., Appendix, No. xxiii. p. 275.


I have given this unpublished letter in the APPENDIX, No. IX.


August 2, 1692, published in King's Life of Locke, vol ii. pp. 410-414.

© 2024 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 -

Privacy Statement

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