Catalogue Entry: OTHE00097

Chapter II

Author: David Brewster

Source: Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: 1855).

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]


"This class of students," says Mr. Edleston, "were required to perform various menial services, which now seem to be considered degrading to a young man who is endeavouring, by the force of his intellect, to raise himself to his proper position in society. The following extract from the Conclusion Book of Trinity College, <21> while it affords an example of one of their duties, will also serve to illustrate the rampant buoyancy of the academic youth at the time of the Restoration."

"Jan. 16, 1660-1. Ordered also that no Bachelor, of what condition soever, nor any Undergraduate, come into the upper butteries, save only a Sizar that is sent to see his tutor's quantum, and then to stay no longer than is requisite for that purpose, under penalty of 6d. for every time; but if any shall leap over the hatch, or strike a butler or his servant upon this account of being hindered to come into the butteries, he shall undergo the censure of the Masters and Seniors.' — Edleston's Correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Cotes, Lond. 1850, p. xli.

[2] Collections for the History of the Town and Soke of Grantham, &c. By Edmund Turnor, F.R.S., F.S.A. Lond. 1806, pp. 159,160. Conduit's MSS. were written subsequently to the Memoirs above referred to.

[3] Demoivre says, that the Book on Astrology was bought at Stourbridge, the seat of the Cambridge fair, close to the town.

[4] Newton's copy of Descartes' Geometry I have seen among the family papers. It is marked in many places with his own hand, Error, Error, non est Geom.

[5] This statement is different from that of Conduit in his Memoirs, but I give it on his own authority, as founded on later inquiries.

[6] Pemberton's, View of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy. PREF.

[7] In this commonplace book we find the date November 1665, so that its contents were written in 1664 and 1665.

[8] In the commonplace book which contains the "annotations out of Schooten and Wallis," no expenses are entered, so that there must be another note-book which I have not found, in which the purchase of Schooten's Miscellanies and Descartes' Geometry is recorded. It is not likely that the second note-book of 1659, mentioned by Conduit, contained expenses incurred in 1663 and 1664.

[9] Conduit remarks that in reading this work he did not entirely understand it, especially what "relates to Quadratic and Cubic Equation" — MSS. A translation of the Clavis was published and recommended by Halley in 1694.

[10] The plague commenced in Westminster about the end of 1664. It raged during the hotter months of 1665, and had so far abated before the end of the year, that the inhabitants returned to their homes in December. The date of Newton's quitting Cambridge, viz., 1665, as written under his own hand in his commonplace book, coincides with these facts, and is on this account probably the correct one; but Pemberton makes the date 1666, which is adopted by Professor Rigaud, and seems to <24> be given by Newton himself in the Phil. Trans., vol. vi. p. 3080. Rigaud's Hist. Essay on the first publication of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia, p. 1, note.

[11] A village in Lincolnshire, near Sleaford, where Newton was probably on a visit.

[12] This comet passed its perihelion on the 4th December at midnight.

[13] Book II, Part IV, Obs. 13.

[14] Conduit's MSS.

[15] Edleston's Correspondence, &c. &c., App. xxi, xlv.

[16] Rigaud's Hist. Essay, &c., App. No. II. p. 20. From the Macclesfield MSS. Raphson Historia Fluxionum, Cap. 1. p. 1, Cap. xiii. p. 92, and English Edition, pp. 115, 116.

[17] These papers in the Macclesfield Collection are quoted by Newton himself in his Observations on Leibnitz's celebrated Letter to the Abbé Conti, dated 9th April 1716. See Raphson's Hist. of Fluxions, pp. 103 and 116.

[18] Neither Pemberton nor Whiston, who received from Newton himself the History of his first Ideas of Gravity, records the story of the falling apple. It was mentioned, however, to Voltaire by Catherine Barton, Newton's niece, and to Mr. Green by Martin Folkes, the President of the Royal Society. We saw the apple tree in 1814, and brought away a portion of one of its roots. The tree was so much decayed that it was taken down in 1820, and the wood of it carefully preserved by Mr. Turnor of Stoke Rocheford. See Voltaire's Philosophie de Newton, 3me part. Chap. III. Green's Philosophy of Expansive and Contractive Forces, p. 972, and Rigaud's Hist. Essay, p. 2.

[19] Phil. Trans. vol. vi. p. 3075.

[20] "Verum quod tenellæ matres factitant, a me depulsum partum amicorum haud recusantium nutriciæ curæ commisi, pront ipsis visum esset, educandum aut exponendum, quorum unus (ipsos enim honestum duco nominatim agnoscere) D. Isaacus Newtonus, collega noster (peregregiæ vir indolis ac insignis peritiæ) exemplar revisit, aliqua corrigenda monens, sed et de suo nonulla penu suggerens quæ nostris alicubi cum laude innexa cernes." The other friend was John Collins, whom he calls the Mersennus of our nation. Epist. ad Lectorem. The imprimatur of this volume is dated March 1668-9.

[21] The addition by Newton is a singularly elegant and expeditious method at the end of Lect. xiv., of determining geometrically in every case, the image formed by lenses, and describing the lens which projects the image on a given point.

[22] Barrow introduces the subject of colours by the following remarkable sentence: "Quoniam colorum incidit mentio, quid si de illis (etsi præter morem et ordinem) paucula divinavero?" — Lect. xii. ad finem.


The only information which we have relative to the times of Newton's leaving and returning to Cambridge, in consequence of the Plague, is contained in the following note by Mr. Edleston: —

"The College was 'dismissed' June 22d, on the reappearance of the Plague. The Fellows and Scholars were allowed their commons during their absence. Newton received on this account

3s. 4d. weekly, for 13 weeks, ending Michaelmas 1666. " " "12 "Dec. 21. " " "5 "Ladyday 1667."

The College had been also dismissed the previous year, August 8th, on the breaking out of the plague, but Newton must have left Cambridge before that, as his name does not appear in the list of those who received extra commons for 612 weeks on the occasion. "Aug. 7, 1665. — A month's commons (beginning Aug. 8th) allowed to all Fellows and Scholars which now go into the country upon occasion of the pestilence." — ( Conclusion Book.)

"On the continuance of the scourge, we find him with others receiving the allowance for commons for 12 weeks, in the quarter ending Dec. 21, 1665, and for 13 weeks ending Ladyday 1666." — Edleston's Correspondence, &c., p. xlii. note 8.

[24] Thomas Burnet, author of the Theoria Telluris Sacra, and a future friend and correspondent of Sir Isaac.

[25] This note-book, of which three-fourths is white paper, begins at one end with three pages of short-hand, which is followed by his expenses. At the other end of the book there is a Nova Cubi . . . . Tabella, and a number of problems in geometry and the Conic Sections.

[26] Flowers of Putty, an oxide of zinc used in polishing lenses and metallic specula.


As this list of expenses is very interesting, and as the book which contains them has obviously been preserved by Newton himself as evidence of the priority of some of his researches, the following abstract of it is presented to the reader: —


Received, May 23d, whereof I gave my tutor 5s., £5 0 0Remaining in my hands since last quarter, 3 8 4In all, £8 8 4

This account of expenses extends only to six and a half pages, and records many loans. The following are among the entries: —

Drills, gravers, a hone, a hammer, and a mandril, £0 5 0 A magnet, 0 16 0 Compasses, 0 3 6 Glass bubbles, 0 4 0 My Bachelor's account, 0 17 6 At the tavern several other times, 1 0 0 Spent on my cousin Ayscough, 0 12 6 On other acquaintance, 0 10 0 Cloth, 2 yards, and buckles for a vest, 2 0 0 Philosophical Intelligences, 0 9 6 The Hist. of the Royal Society, 0 7 0 Gunter's Book and Sector to Dr. Fox, 0 5 0 Lost at cards twice, 0 15 0 At the tavern twice, 0 3 6 I went into the country, Dec. 4, 1667. I returned to Cambridge, Feb. 12, 1667. Received of my mother, 30 0 0 My journey, 0 7 6 For my degree to the College, 5 10 0 To the proctor, 2 0 0 To three prisms, 3 0 0 Four ounces of putty, 0 1 4 Lent to Dr. Wickins, 1 7 6 Bacon's Miscellanies, 0 1 6 Expenses caused by my degree, 0 15 0 A Bible binding, 0 3 0 <33> For oranges for my sister, £0 4 2 Spent on my journey to London, and 4s. or 5s. more which my mother gave me in the country, 5 10 0 I went to London, Wednesday, August 5th, and returned to Cambridge on Monday, September 28, 1668. Lent Dr. Wickins, 0 11 0

April 1669.

For glasses in Cambridge. For glasses in London. For aquafortis, sublimate, oyle pink, fine silver, antimony, vinegar, spirit of wine, white lead, salt of tartar, 2 0 0 A furnace,0 8 0 Air furnace, 0 7 0 Theatrum chemicum, 1 8 0 Lent Wardwell 3s., and his wife 2s., 0 5 0

[28] See Letter to Oldenburgh, Feb. 1671-2, in Newtoni Opera, by Horsley, tom. iv. p. 295; and Letter to a Friend, Feb. 23, 1668-9, in Gregory's Catoptrics, edit. 3d, p. 259; or in the Macclesfield Collections, vol. ii. p. 289.

[29] See Appendix, No. I.

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