Press and Pop Culture

Newton Again, and Again, and Again

Two recent stories on Isaac Newton seem to point once again to our undying fascination with all things Newton. On the one hand, a pair of articles in The Guardian announce and then report on the auction of some partially burnt notes on measuring Egyptian pyramids. We are given a glimpse into the mind of the genius who could contemplate the mysteries of antiquity and develop the laws of physics. I suppose we are to be stunned and amazed that Newton, a scholar in the late 17th century, was fascinated by the pyramids, sacred architecture, and Egyptian alchemy.

Some of Newton’s notes on the Egyptian pyramids.

On the other hand, we read in the NY Times about the scholars who have compiled a census of surviving copies of Newton’s Principia mathematica, including details about ownership and use, e.g., marginal notes, underlining, etc. (apparently, the copy here at Haverford is not very interesting). These scholars are not interested in discredited intellectual pursuits. Their research focuses on the very foundation of Newton’s fame. For the moment the scholarly article — all 97 pages of the preliminary census — seems to be Open Access.

Newton’s Principia mathematica was, we are told, widely read and understood.

I wonder if we will ever grow tired of telling and reading stories about Newton.