Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas day in 1642. Old Style at Woolstrope in the parish of Colsterworth in the County of Lincoln near three months after the death of his father Isaac Newton who was descended from the eldest branch of the family of Sir Iohn Newton of Lincolnshire, Baronet, & was Lord of the said Manor of Woolstrope which appears by authentick deeds to have been near 200 years in his family which came thither from Westby in the same County but originally from Newtown in Lancashire His mother was Hannah Ascough of the antient family of the Ascoughs of Market Overton in the County of Rutland, she was married a second time, to the Reverend Mr Benjamin Smith Rector of North Witham & had by him a son & two daughters from whom are descended the four nephews & four nieces who inherit Sir Isaac's personal estate


Sir Isaac was sent when 12 years old to the great school at Grantham where whilst a boy he shewed a strong disposition towards mechanicks & gave early tokens of an uncommon genius. After he had been there about four years & a half his mother took him home, intending he should apply himself to the management of his own estate but his genius could not brook such an employment & the strong inclination he shewed for reading & inattention to every thing else induced his mother to send him to Grantham school again for nine months & thence to Trinity College at Cambridge where he was admitted the 5th of Iune in 1660, under Mr Benjamin Pulleyn – He always informed himself before hand of the books his tutour intended to read, & when he came to the lectures found he knew more of them than his tutour, the first books he read for that purpose were Sanderson's logick & Kepler's opticks,


A desire to know wether there was any thing in judicial astrology put him as it did Cassini upon studying Mathematicks, he discovered the emptiness of that science – the moment he made a figure for which purpose he made use of two or three problems in Euclid which he turned to by means of an Index & never read the rest but despised it upon the whole as a trifling book

he went at once upon Des Cartes's Geometry & made himself Master of it by dint of genius & application without going through the usual steps or the assistance of any other person,


In 1664 he bought a prism to try some experiments upon Des Cartes's book of colours & soon found out his own Hypothesis & the erroneousness of Des Cartes's, about this time he began to haue the first hint of his method of fluxions & in the year 1665 when he was retired to his own estate on account of the Plague, he discovered his system of gravity he took the first hint of it from seeing an apple fall from a tree —

He made all his discoveries before he was 28 year old, When he was in the midst of them he left a candle upon his table amongst his papers which burnt a great many relating both to his fluxions & opticks which he could never recover – As to the loose tracts which he sent to the Royal Society & communicated in letters an ample account is giuen of them in the Commercium Epistolicum & now I am on that subject giue me leaue to observe to you that as many new lights have appeared relating to that dispute it is expected from your candour & equity that you will correct several passages in your works printed before those discoveries were made – In the Eloge upon Monsieur l'Hopital you say – le calcul differentiel inventé par Monsieur Leibnitz et en meme tems par Monsieur Newt{on} <3r> I am confident you are perswaded, as I am credibly informed the Germans are now, that Sr I. made this discovery many years before Leibnitz & & that Leibnits took it from him, if there wanted any further proofs – Leibnits's manner of defending himself is sufficient – he lived many years after the dispute was began & never offered the least proof in his own justification, & since his death that Commercium Epistolicum has never appeared, & I have seen a letter from Bernoulli to Sr I. N. as I beleive you did wherein he absolutely denies that he was the author of the Charta volans fathered upon him by Leibnitz, & proves what was always suspected that he himself was the authour of it & that his cause was so bad as to oblige him to haue recourse to shifts & practices very unworthy of a great man – You are so well acquainted with the books he published that I need not say any thing to you on that subject nor of the general applause & approbation they have met with — as to the famous problem which was sent to puzzle all the Mathematicians – Sir I. received the letter enclosing it about 4– a clock after he had been tired with the business of the Mint where he had been employed all day, & solved it before he went to bed.

In 1667 he was Elected fellow of Trinity College & in 1669 Dr Barrow resigned the Mathematical professorship to him —

In 1671 he was Elected fellow of the Royal Society

In 1675 he had a dispensation from King Charles the 2d to continue fellow without taking orders –

In 1687 he was chosen one of the Delegates to represent the University of Cambridge before the High Commission Court to answer for the University's refusing to admitt Father Francis Master of Arts upon the King's mandamus without taking the oaths, & was a great instrument in perswading his collegues to persist in the maintenance of their rights & priviledges – In 1688 he was chosen by the University of Cambridge member of the Convention Parliament <3v>

In 1696 – the late Earl of Halifax then Chancellour of the Exchequer that great Patron of the learned writt him a letter to Cambridge acquainting him he had prevailed with the King to make him Warden of the Mint in which office he did signal service in the great recoinage which happened immediately after — In 1699 – he was made Master & Worker of the Mint in which he continued to his death — & behaved himself with an universal character of integrity & disinterestedness & had frequent opportunities of employing his skill in numbers particularly in his table of Assays of foreign coins which are printed in the book of coins lately printed by Dr Arbuthnott

In 1701 he made W. Whiston his deputy professor — & allowed him all the salary from that time though he did not resign the professorship to him till 1703 upon the choice of a new Parliament he was reelected member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge – In 1705 he stood again with the Earl of Godolphin & only son of the Lord High Treasurer Godolphin but was not chosen, after which he offered himself no more – The same year he was Knighted by the Queen at Cambridge

In 1703 he was Elected President of the Royal Society & continued so to his death, being above 23 years, he was the first who was President for so long, & was never removed but continued President from their first Election to his death


At the University he spent the greatest time in his closet & when he was tired with his severer studies of the Mathematicks his only releif & amusement was going to some other as History & Chronology or Divinity & Chymistry all which he examined & searched thoroughly, after his coming to London all the time he had to spare from his office & the civilities of life were employed in the same way, but he was so courteous & humane even to the lowest people that he would with great patience quitt the most engaging study rather than be {uncivill} to the most trifling visiter – He used to write down any thoughts which occurred upon the books he was reading, & make large abstracts of them, – & had a patience & perseverance in any study he was pursuing, equal to his sagacity & invention, one great instance of this are the rheams <4v> of foul & loose papers he has left behind in his own hand besides many he burnt not long before he died some of which are the same thing writt over six or seven times, & that after the translation of the abstract of it had been printed in France & attacked in so extraordinary manner he seemed resolved to print as privately as possible & keep the copies in his own possession – The answer he gaue to the remarks upon it you have seen, which produced Pere Souciet's treatise as soon as that came to my hands I being apprehensive the manner in which he writes might affect Sir I. more than the argument, had an extract made of all the real objections & shewed them to Sir Isaac, & had the pleasure of finding the only effect they had upon him was to convince him of the ignorance of the authour, he saw afterwards the whole book without altering his opinion in which he was not single as you will perceive by a little tract published by Dr Halley who never saw Sir I.s great work

The Chronology is in the press & will be out I hope before the 12th November – I will do my self the honour to send you one of the first that are printed


He was highly honoured & respected in all reigns & under all administrations, even by those he opposed, for in every station he shewed an inflexible attachment to the cause of liberty, & our present happy establishment. Their present Majesties always shewed him particular marks of their favour & esteem, & often did him the honour to admitt him to their Royal presence for hours together. The Queen, whose great entertainment is hearing arguments concerning matters of Philosophy & Divinity, frequently desired to see him & always expressed great satisfaction in his conversation. She was graciously pleased to take part in the disputes he was engaged in during his life, & has shewn a great regard for every thing that concerned his honour & memory since his death. I must not omitt telling you, that I have often had the honour to hear Her Majesty say before the whole circle, that she kept <5v> the abstract of Chronology Sir Isaac gave her written in his own hand among her choicest treasures, & that she thought it a happiness to have lived at the same time, & have known so great a man.     I conjure you, Sir to insert this in the Eloge because I am perswaded you can say nothing that will do him more honour, than such a commendation from a Queen, who is the Minerva of her age.


Their present Majesties always shewed him particular marks of their favour & esteem, & often did him the honour to admitt him to their Royal presence for hours together. The Queen, whose great entertainment is hearing arguments upon matters of Divinity & Philosophy, frequently desired to see him & always expressed great satisfaction in his conversation. She was graciously pleased to take part in the disputes he was engaged in during his life, & has shewn a great regard for every thing that concerned his honour & memory since his death. I must not omitt telling you that I have often had the honour to hear her Majesty say before the whole circle that she kept the abstract of Chronology Sir Isaac gave her written in his own hand among her choicest treasures, <7v> & that she thought it a happiness to have lived at the same time & have known so great a man. I conjure you Sir to insert this in the Eloge because I am perswaded you can say nothing that will do him more honour than such a commendation from a Queen, who is the Minerva of her age.


He lived at London ever since the year 1696 when he was made Warden of the Mint, no body ever lived with him but my wife who was with him near twenty years, he always lived in a very handsome, generous manner though without ostentation always hospitable, & upon proper occasions gave splendid entertainments, he was generous & charitable without bounds, he used to say, that they who gave nothing away till they dyed, never gave, which perhaps was one reason of his not making a will, I beleive no man of his circumstances ever gave away so much during his life time in alms in encouraging ingenuity & learning & to his relations, nor upon all occasions shewed a greater contempt of his own money, & frugality of that which belonged to the publick or any society he was entrusted for – He refused pensions & additional employments that were offered him, in all reigns & under all the different administrations that have governed here during these last 30 years he was always highly honoured & respected even by those he opposed for in all stations he always shewed an inflexible attachment to the Cause of liberty


He was so modest & humble that he was sometimes apt to take the applause which was so deservedly paid him in a quite contrary sense from what it was intended

He was exceedingly affable to all mild & meek & of such a sweetness of temper that a melancholy story would often fetch tears from him, & he had the greatest abhorrence & detestation of any act of cruelty to man or beast, mercy to both being a darling topick he used to Dwell upon —

He was a firm beleiver of revealed religion which appears by the many volumes he has left on that subject as well as by the exemplariness of his life , but his opinion of the Christian religion was not founded on so <10r> narrow a bottom as to confine it to this or that particular sect, nor his charity & morality so scanty as to shew a coldness to those of another opinion in matters indifferent much less admitt of persecution of which he always shewed the strongest abhorrence & detestation —

The greatest modesty & simplicity appeared in all his behaviour actions & expressions He was very temperate & sober in his diet but never observed any regimen & was very averse to taking of Physick he was blessed with a very happy & vigorous constitution, he never used spectacles nor lost but one tooth to the day of his death – About 5 years before he died he was troubled with an Incontinence of bladder irretention of urine from a weakness of sphincter upon which Dr Mead advised him to leave off his chariot, & that continued upon him more or less according to the motion he used, about two years before he died he voided without any pain a stone about the bigness of a pea which came away in two pieces one at some days distance from the other — Soon after the indisposition abovementioned he left off dining abroad or in much company <10v> at home, & had constantly for his breakfast some tea of orange chips & saffron prescribed by Dr Mead & bread & butter, & for supper some broth & at dinner eat seldom of meat above the wing of a chicken but of vegetables & fruit & sweet meats very heartily which agreed very well with him — At           he had a violent cough upon which he was with much ado perswaded to take a lodging at Kensington where he had for the first time in his 84 year a fit of the gout except one in his 80 year & found himself so much better that he kept the lodging till he died, In the winter 1725 – he was very desirous & pressing to resign his employment to me, his indisposition disabling him from officiating himself, & his old deputy being confined by a dropsy & as it was an office of the greatest confidence & exactness & I knew how uneasie he would be to entrust it with a stranger I offered to act for him which I did for about a year before he died & made his mind <11r> so easie on that subject that he never went to the tower above 3 or 4 times afterwards & did not then act himself He was always so well at Kensington that wee took all methods to keep him there but though I had eased him of his uneasie journeys to the Tower which was his only real call wee could not by any means prevail with him not to come to town – On Tuesday The last day of February 17267 he came to town in order to go to a meeting at the Royal Society & on the 1st of March I thought I had not seen him better in many years & he was sensible of it himself & told me smiling that he had slept the Sunday before from 11 at night till 8 in the morning without waking, but his great fatigue going to the Society & making & receiving visits in town brought his old complaint upon him on Friday the 3d of March he returned to Kensington where he continued ill Dr Mead & Cheselden immediately said it there were symptoms of {illeg} stone {within} {illeg} his bladder & gaue little hopes of him, the stone was probably stirred from the place where it lay quiet by his great <11v> motion in town, there coming away {illeg} matter, in his {illeg} which {shook} that {illeg} {became an ulcer on which} {illeg} he seemed easier on Wednesday the 15th of March & gave us some hopes, but he grew worse & weaker & on Friday had a violent looseness on Saturday morning he read all the news papers held a tolerable long discourse with Dr Mead & had all his senses perfect, he had from time to time during his last return to Kensington violent fits of pain & though the drops of sweat ran down from his face with anguish would hardly cry out, more patience was never shewn by any mortal – From Saturday night at six a clock & all Sunday he lay insensible, & died on Monday the 20th between one & two in the morning —– In the 17 days in which he was free from the most {illeg} Torture above a quarter of an hour he never once groaned or uttered one peevish {word} or {illeg} and the only sign of impatience he showd was on Saturday evening {illeg} when his {illeg} <12r> was to ask often what a clock it was

His humillity was so great that he never despised any man for want of capacity but was shocked at bad morals, and want of due veneration to Religion was the only discours could make him rebuke his {acquaintance} & which he would not bear from those who were upon other accounts {men} of singular {merit}

He was never marryed His life was a continued series of {Labour} of patience & all {illeg} Vertues with out any mixture of Vice from which he was pure & unspotted in thought word &


He was the admiration not only of his own country men of the highest reach & capacity but of all foreigners who visited England and as the Young Nobillity who were going to {illeg} endeavour to be introduced in order to say when the{y} were {asked} after him they knew him {illeg} strangers of {illeg} try all possible ways of seeing him. Signor Bianchini the Popes chamberlain declared he came from Ais la Chapelle on purpose

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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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