Sir Isaac Newton
, FRS (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727
[OS: 25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726]
was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural
philosopher, alchemist, and theologian and one of the most
human history. His Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica
published in 1687, is considered to be the most influential book in
the history of science. In this work, Newton described universal
gravitation and the three laws of motion, laying the groundwork for
classical mechanics, which dominated the scientific view of the
physical Universe for the next three centuries and is the basis for
modern engineering. Newton showed that the motions of objects on
Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of
natural laws by demonstrating the consistency between Kepler's laws
of planetary motion and his theory of gravitation, thus removing the
last doubts about heliocentrism and advancing the scientific
In mechanics, Newton enunciated the principles of conservation of
momentum and angular momentum. In optics, he built the first
"practical" reflecting telescope
and developed a theory of colour based on the observation that a
prism decomposes white light into a visible spectrum. He also
formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of
In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz
for the development of the differential and integral calculus. He
also demonstrated the generalised binomial theorem, developed the
so-called "Newton's method" for approximating the zeroes of a
function, and contributed to the study of power series.
Newton was also highly religious (though unorthodox), producing
more work on Biblical hermeneutics than the natural science he is
remembered for today.
Newton's stature among scientists remains at the very top rank,
as demonstrated by a 2005 survey of scientists in Britain's Royal
Society asking who had the greater effect on the history of science,
Newton was deemed much more influential than Albert Einstein.
Isaac Newton was born on 4 January 1643 [OS: 25 December
at Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a hamlet in the
county of Lincolnshire. At the time of Newton's birth, England had
not adopted the latest papal calendar and therefore his date of
birth was recorded as Christmas Day, 25 December 1642. Newton was
born three months after the death of his father. Born prematurely,
he was a small child; his mother Hannah Ayscough reportedly said
that he could have fit inside a quart mug. When Newton was three,
his mother remarried and went to live with her new husband, the
Reverend Barnabus Smith, leaving her son in the care of his maternal
grandmother, Margery Ayscough. The young Isaac disliked his
stepfather and held some enmity towards his mother for marrying him,
as revealed by this entry in a list of sins committed up to the age
of 19: Threatening my father and mother Smith to burn them and
the house over them.
According to E.T. Bell and H. Eves:
Newton began his schooling in the village schools and was
later sent to The King's School, Grantham, where he became the
top student in the school. At King's, he lodged with the local
apothecary, William Clarke and eventually became engaged to the
apothecary's stepdaughter, Anne Storer, before he went off to
the University of Cambridge at the age of 19. As Newton became
engrossed in his studies, the romance cooled and Miss Storer
married someone else. It is said he kept a warm memory of this
love, but Newton had no other recorded "sweet-hearts" and never
There are rumours that he remained a confirmed celibate.
However, Bell and Eves' sources for this claim, William Stukeley and
Mrs. Vincent (the former Miss Storer – actually named Katherine, not
Anne), merely say that Newton entertained "a passion" for Storer
while he lodged at the Clarke house.
From the age of about twelve until he was seventeen, Newton was
educated at The King's School, Grantham (where his signature can
still be seen upon a library window sill). He was removed from
school, and by October 1659, he was to be found at
Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, where his mother, widowed by now for a
second time, attempted to make a farmer of him. He hated farming.
Henry Stokes, master at the King's School, persuaded his mother to
send him back to school so that he might complete his education.
This he did at the age of eighteen, achieving an admirable final
In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge.
According to John Stillwell, he entered Trinity as a sizar.
At that time, the college's teachings were based on those of
Aristotle, but Newton preferred to read the more advanced ideas of
modern philosophers such as Descartes and astronomers such as
Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. The works of John Bate were also
1665, he discovered the generalised binomial theorem and began to
develop a mathematical theory that would later become infinitesimal
calculus. Soon after Newton had obtained his degree in August of
1665, the University closed down as a precaution against the Great
Plague. Although he had been undistinguished as a Cambridge student,
Newton's private studies at his home in Woolsthorpe over the
subsequent two years saw the development of his theories on
calculus, optics and the law of gravitation.
Most modern historians believe that Newton and Leibniz developed
infinitesimal calculus independently, using their own unique
notations. According to Newton's inner circle, Newton had worked out
his method years before Leibniz, yet he published almost nothing
about it until 1693, and did not give a full account until 1704.
Meanwhile, Leibniz began publishing a full account of his methods in
1684. Moreover, Leibniz's notation and "differential Method" were
universally adopted on the Continent, and after 1820 or so, in the
British Empire. Whereas Leibniz's notebooks show the advancement of
the ideas from early stages until maturity, there is only the end
product in Newton's known notes. Newton claimed that he had been
reluctant to publish his calculus because he feared being mocked for
it. Newton had a very close relationship with Swiss mathematician
Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, who from the beginning was impressed by
Newton's gravitational theory. In 1691 Duillier planned to prepare a
new version of Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia
Mathematica, but never finished it. However, in 1694 the
relationship between the two men changed. At the time, Duillier had
also exchanged several letters with Leibniz .
Starting in 1699, other members of the Royal Society (of which
Newton was a member) accused Leibniz of plagiarism, and the dispute
broke out in full force in 1711. Newton's Royal Society proclaimed
in a study that it was Newton who was the true discoverer and
labeled Leibniz a fraud. This study was cast into doubt when it was
later found that Newton himself wrote the study's concluding remarks
on Leibniz. Thus began the bitter Newton v. Leibniz calculus
controversy, which marred the lives of both Newton and Leibniz until
the latter's death in 1716.
Newton is generally credited with the generalised binomial
theorem, valid for any exponent. He discovered Newton's identities,
Newton's method, classified cubic plane curves (polynomials of
degree three in two variables), made substantial contributions to
the theory of finite differences, and was the first to use
fractional indices and to employ coordinate geometry to derive
solutions to Diophantine equations. He approximated partial sums of
the harmonic series by logarithms (a precursor to Euler's summation
formula), and was the first to use power series with confidence and
to revert power series. He also discovered a new formula for
He was elected Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1669. In that
day, any fellow of Cambridge or Oxford had to be an ordained
Anglican priest. However, the terms of the Lucasian professorship
required that the holder not be active in the church
(presumably so as to have more time for science). Newton argued that
this should exempt him from the ordination requirement, and Charles
II, whose permission was needed, accepted this argument. Thus a
conflict between Newton's religious views and Anglican orthodoxy was
Isaac Newton - By James Gleick
"Aside from it being an eminently
accessible biography, illustrations, extensive notes,
bibliography and index make this an invaluable source
for anyone who wants to enter the wonderful and arcane
world of Sir Isaac Newton. --Douglas
From 1670 to 1672, Newton lectured on optics. During this period
he investigated the refraction of light, demonstrating that a prism
could decompose white light into a spectrum of colours, and that a
lens and a second prism could recompose the multicoloured spectrum
into white light.
He also showed that the coloured light does not change its
properties by separating out a coloured beam and shining it on
various objects. Newton noted that regardless of whether it was
reflected or scattered or transmitted, it stayed the same colour.
Thus, he observed that colour is the result of objects interacting
with already-coloured light rather than objects generating the
colour themselves. This is known as Newton's theory of colour.
From this work he concluded that any refracting telescope would
suffer from the dispersion of light into colours (chromatic
aberration), and invented a type reflecting telescope (today known
as a Newtonian telescope) to bypass that problem. By grinding his
own mirrors, using Newton's rings to judge the quality of the optics
for his telescopes, he was able to produce a superior instrument to
the refracting telescope, due primarily to the wider diameter of the
mirror. In 1671 the Royal Society asked for a demonstration of his
reflecting telescope. Their interest encouraged him to publish his
notes On Colour, which he later expanded into his Opticks.
When Robert Hooke criticised some of Newton's ideas, Newton was so
offended that he withdrew from public debate. The two men remained
enemies until Hooke's death.
Newton argued that light is composed of particles or
corpuscles, which were refracted by accelerating toward the
denser medium, but he had to associate them with waves to explain
the diffraction of light (Opticks Bk. II, Props. XII-L).
Later physicists instead favoured a purely wavelike explanation of
light to account for diffraction. Today's quantum mechanics, photons
and the idea of wave–particle duality bear only a minor resemblance
to Newton's understanding of light.
In his Hypothesis of Light of 1675, Newton posited the
existence of the ether to transmit forces between particles. The
contact with the theosophist Henry More, revived his interest in
alchemy. He replaced the ether with occult forces based on Hermetic
ideas of attraction and repulsion between particles. John Maynard
Keynes, who acquired many of Newton's writings on alchemy, stated
that "Newton was not the first of the age of reason: he was the last
of the magicians."
Newton's interest in alchemy cannot be isolated from his
contributions to science.
(This was at a time when there was no clear distinction between
alchemy and science.) Had he not relied on the occult idea of action
at a distance, across a vacuum, he might not have developed his
theory of gravity. (See also Isaac Newton's occult studies.)
In 1704 Newton published Opticks, in which he expounded
his corpuscular theory of light. He considered light to be made up
of extremely subtle corpuscles, that ordinary matter was made of
grosser corpuscles and speculated that through a kind of alchemical
transmutation "Are not gross Bodies and Light convertible into one
another, …and may not Bodies receive much of their Activity from the
Particles of Light which enter their Composition?"
Newton also constructed a primitive form of a frictional
electrostatic generator, using a glass globe (Optics, 8th Query).
Mechanics and gravitation
In 1677, Newton returned to his work on mechanics, i.e.,
gravitation and its effect on the orbits of planets, with reference
to Kepler's laws of planetary motion, and consulting with Hooke and
Flamsteed on the subject. He published his results in De motu
corporum in gyrum (1684). This contained the beginnings of the
laws of motion that would inform the Principia.
The Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (now
known as the Principia) was published on 5 July 1687 with
encouragement and financial help from Edmond Halley. In this work
Newton stated the three universal laws of motion that were not to be
improved upon for more than two hundred years. He used the Latin
word gravitas (weight) for the effect that would become known
as gravity, and defined the law of universal gravitation. In the
same work he presented the first analytical determination, based on
Boyle's law, of the speed of sound in air. Newton's postulate of an
invisible force able to act over vast distances led to him being
criticised for introducing "occult agencies" into science.
With the Principia, Newton became internationally
recognised. He acquired a circle of admirers, including the
Swiss-born mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, with whom he
formed an intense relationship that lasted until 1693. The end of
this friendship led Newton to a nervous breakdown.
In the 1690s, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing
with the literal interpretation of the Bible. Henry More's belief in
the Universe and rejection of Cartesian dualism may have influenced
Newton's religious ideas. A manuscript he sent to John Locke in
which he disputed the existence of the Trinity was never published.
Later works – The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended
(1728) and Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the
Apocalypse of St. John (1733) – were published after his death.
He also devoted a great deal of time to alchemy (see above).
Newton was also a member of the Parliament of England from 1689
to 1690 and in 1701, but his only recorded comments were to complain
about a cold draught in the chamber and request that the window be
Newton moved to London to take up the post of warden of the Royal
Mint in 1696, a position that he had obtained through the patronage
of Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, then Chancellor of the
Exchequer. He took charge of England's great recoining, somewhat
treading on the toes of Master Lucas (and securing the job of deputy
comptroller of the temporary Chester branch for Edmond Halley).
Newton became perhaps the best-known Master of the Mint upon Lucas'
death in 1699, a position Newton held until his death. These
appointments were intended as sinecures, but Newton took them
seriously, retiring from his Cambridge duties in 1701, and
exercising his power to reform the currency and punish clippers and
counterfeiters. As Master of the Mint in 1717 Newton unofficially
moved the Pound Sterling from the silver standard to the gold
standard by creating a relationship between gold coins and the
silver penny in the "Law of Queen Anne"; these were all great
reforms at the time, adding considerably to the wealth and stability
of England. It was his work at the Mint, rather than his earlier
contributions to science, that earned him a knighthood from Queen
Anne in 1705.
Newton was made President of the Royal Society in 1703 and an
associate of the French Académie des Sciences. In his position at
the Royal Society, Newton made an enemy of John Flamsteed, the
Astronomer Royal, by prematurely publishing Flamsteed's star
catalogue, which Newton had used in his studies.
Newton died in London on 31 March 1727 [OS: 20 March 1726],
and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His half-niece, Catherine
served as his hostess in social affairs at his house on Jermyn
Street in London; he was her "very loving Uncle,"
according to his letter to her when she was recovering from
smallpox. Newton, who had no children, had divested much of his
estate onto relatives in his last years, and died intestate.
After his death, Newton's body was discovered to have had massive
amounts of mercury in it, probably resulting from his alchemical
pursuits. Mercury poisoning could explain Newton's eccentricity in
Historian Stephen D. Snobelen says of Newton, "Isaac Newton was a
heretic. But like Nicodemus, the secret disciple of Jesus, he never
made a public declaration of his private faith – which the orthodox
would have deemed extremely radical. He hid his faith so well that
scholars are still unravelling his personal beliefs."
Snobelen concludes that Newton was at least a Socinian sympathiser
(he owned and had thoroughly read at least eight Socinian books),
possibly an Arian and almost certainly an antitrinitarian.
In an age notable for its religious intolerance there are few public
expressions of Newton's radical views, most notably his refusal to
take holy orders and his refusal, on his death bed, to take the
sacrament when it was offered to him.
In a view disputed by Snobelen,
T.C. Pfizenmaier argues that Newton held the Eastern Orthodox view
of the Trinity rather than the Western one held by Roman Catholics,
Anglicans, and most Protestants.
In his own day, he was also accused of being a Rosicrucian (as were
many in the Royal Society and in the court of Charles II).
Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became
Newton's best-known discoveries, he warned against using them to
view the Universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He
said, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot
explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and
knows all that is or can be done."
His scientific fame notwithstanding, Newton's studies of the
Bible and of the early Church Fathers were also noteworthy. Newton
wrote works on textual criticism, most notably An Historical
Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture. He also placed
the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at 3 April, AD 33, which agrees with
one traditionally accepted date.
He also attempted, unsuccessfully, to find hidden messages within
In his own lifetime, Newton wrote more on religion than he did on
natural science. He believed in a rationally immanent world, but he
rejected the hylozoism implicit in Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza. Thus,
the ordered and dynamically informed Universe could be understood,
and must be understood, by an active reason, but this Universe, to
be perfect and ordained, had to be regular
Newton's effect on religious thought
Newton and Robert Boyle’s mechanical philosophy was promoted by
rationalist pamphleteers as a viable alternative to the pantheists
and enthusiasts, and was accepted hesitantly by orthodox preachers
as well as dissident preachers like the latitudinarians.
Thus, the clarity and simplicity of science was seen as a way to
combat the emotional and metaphysical superlatives of both
superstitious enthusiasm and the threat of atheism,
and, at the same time, the second wave of English deists used
Newton's discoveries to demonstrate the possibility of a "Natural
The attacks made against pre-Enlightenment "magical thinking,"
and the mystical elements of Christianity, were given their
foundation with Boyle’s mechanical conception of the Universe.
Newton gave Boyle’s ideas their completion through mathematical
proofs and, perhaps more importantly, was very successful in
Newton refashioned the world governed by an interventionist God into
a world crafted by a God that designs along rational and universal
principles were available for all people to discover, allowed people
to pursue their own aims fruitfully in this life, not the next, and
to perfect themselves with their own rational powers.
Newton saw God as the master creator whose existence could not be
denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation.
But the unforeseen theological consequence of his conception of God,
as Leibniz pointed out, was that God was now entirely removed from
the world’s affairs, since the need for intervention would only
evidence some imperfection in God’s creation, something impossible
for a perfect and omnipotent creator.
Leibniz's theodicy cleared God from the responsibility for "l'origine
du mal" by making God removed from participation in his
creation. The understanding of the world was now brought down to the
level of simple human reason, and humans, as Odo Marquard argued,
became responsible for the correction and elimination of evil.
On the other hand, latitudinarian and Newtonian ideas taken too
far resulted in the millenarians, a religious faction dedicated to
the concept of a mechanical Universe, but finding in it the same
enthusiasm and mysticism that the Enlightenment had fought so hard
Views of the end of the world
In a manuscript he wrote in 1704 in which he describes his
attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible, he
estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. In
predicting this he said, "This I mention not to assert when the time
of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of
fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and
by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as
their predictions fail."
Newton and the counterfeiters
As warden of the Royal Mint, Newton estimated that 20% of the
coins taken in during The Great Recoinage were counterfeit.
Counterfeiting was high treason, punishable by being hanged, drawn
and quartered. Despite this, convictions of the most flagrant
criminals could be extremely difficult to achieve; however, Newton
proved to be equal to the task.
Disguised as an habitué of bars and taverns, he gathered much of
that evidence himself. For all the barriers placed to prosecution,
and separating the branches of government, English law still had
ancient and formidable customs of authority. Newton was made a
justice of the peace and between June 1698 and Christmas 1699
conducted some 200 cross-examinations of witnesses, informers and
suspects. Newton won his convictions and in February 1699, he had
ten prisoners waiting to be executed.
Possibly Newton's greatest triumph as the king's attorney was
against William Chaloner. One of Chaloner's schemes was to set up
phony conspiracies of Catholics and then turn in the hapless
conspirators whom he entrapped. Chaloner made himself rich enough to
posture as a gentleman. Petitioning Parliament, Chaloner accused the
Mint of providing tools to counterfeiters (a charge also made by
others). He proposed that he be allowed to inspect the Mint's
processes in order to improve them. He petitioned Parliament to
adopt his plans for a coinage that could not be counterfeited, while
at the same time striking false coins. Newton was outraged, and went
about the work to uncover anything about Chaloner. During his
studies, he found that Chaloner was engaged in counterfeiting. He
immediately put Chaloner on trial, but Chaloner had friends in high
places and, to Newton's horror, Chaloner walked free. Newton put him
on trial a second time with conclusive evidence. Chaloner was
convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered on 23
March 1699 at Tyburn gallows.
Enlightenment philosophers chose a short history of scientific
predecessors — Galileo, Boyle, and Newton principally — as the
guides and guarantors of their applications of the singular concept
of Nature and Natural Law to every physical and social field of the
day. In this respect, the lessons of history and the social
structures built upon it could be discarded.
It was Newton’s conception of the Universe based upon Natural and
rationally understandable laws that became the seed for
Enlightenment ideology. Locke and Voltaire applied concepts of
Natural Law to political systems advocating intrinsic rights; the
physiocrats and Adam Smith applied Natural conceptions of psychology
and self-interest to economic systems and the sociologists
criticised the current social order for trying to fit history into
Natural models of progress. Monboddo and Samuel Clarke resisted
elements of Newton's work, but eventually rationalised it to conform
with their strong religious views of nature.
When Newton saw an apple fall, he found
In that slight startle from his contemplation –
'Tis said (for I'll not answer above ground
For any sage's creed or calculation) –
A mode of proving that the earth turn'd round
In a most natural whirl, called "gravitation;"
And this is the sole mortal who could grapple,
Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple.
Newton himself often told that story that he was inspired to
formulate his theory of gravitation by watching the fall of an apple
from a tree. It fell straight down — why was that, he asked?
Cartoons have gone further to suggest the apple actually hit
Newton's head, and that its impact somehow made him aware of the
force of gravity. It is known from his notebooks that Newton was
grappling in the late 1660s with the idea that terrestrial gravity
extends, in an inverse-square proportion, to the Moon; however it
took him two decades to develop the full-fledged theory.
John Conduitt, Newton's assistant at the Royal Mint and husband of
Newton's niece, described the event when he wrote about Newton's
In the year 1666 he retired again from Cambridge to his
mother in Lincolnshire. Whilst he was pensively meandering in a
garden it came into his thought that the power of gravity (which
brought an apple from a tree to the ground) was not limited to a
certain distance from earth, but that this power must extend
much further than was usually thought. Why not as high as the
Moon said he to himself & if so, that must influence her motion
& perhaps retain her in her orbit, whereupon he fell a
calculating what would be the effect of that supposition.
The question was not whether gravity existed, but whether it
extended so far from Earth that it could also be the force holding
the moon to its orbit. Newton showed that if the force decreased as
the inverse square of the distance, one could indeed calculate the
Moon's orbital period, and get good agreement. He guessed the same
force was responsible for other orbital motions, and hence named it
A contemporary writer, William Stukeley, recorded in his
Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life a conversation with Newton in
Kensington on 15 April 1726, in which Newton recalled "when
formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was
occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood.
Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,
thought he to himself. Why should it not go sideways or upwards, but
constantly to the earth's centre." In similar terms, Voltaire wrote
in his Essay on Epic Poetry (1727), "Sir Isaac Newton walking
in his gardens, had the first thought of his system of gravitation,
upon seeing an apple falling from a tree." These accounts are
probably exaggerations of Newton's own tale about sitting by a
window in his home (Woolsthorpe Manor) and watching an apple fall
from a tree.
Various trees are claimed to be "the" apple tree which Newton
describes. The King's School, Grantham, claims that the tree was
purchased by the school, uprooted and transported to the
headmaster's garden some years later, the staff of the [now]
National Trust-owned Woolsthorpe Manor dispute this, and claim that
a tree present in their gardens is the one described by Newton. A
descendant of the original tree can be seen growing outside the main
gate of Trinity College, Cambridge, below the room Newton lived in
when he studied there. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale
can supply grafts from their tree (ref 1948-729), which appears
identical to Flower of Kent, a coarse-fleshed cooking variety .
Writings by Newton
- Method of Fluxions (1671)
- Of Natures Obvious Laws & Processes in Vegetation
(unpublished, c. 1671–75)
- De Motu Corporum in Gyrum (1684)
- Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687)
- Opticks (1704)
- Reports as Master of the Mint (1701–25)
- Arithmetica Universalis (1707)
- The System of the World, Optical Lectures,
The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms, (Amended) and De
mundi systemate (published posthumously in 1728)
- Observations on Daniel and The Apocalypse of St. John
- An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of
French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange often said that Newton
was the greatest genius who ever lived, and once added that he was
also "the most fortunate, for we cannot find more than once a system
of the world to establish."
English poet Alexander Pope was moved by Newton's accomplishments to
write the famous epitaph:
Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said "Let Newton be" and all was light.
Newton himself was rather more modest of his own achievements,
famously writing in a letter to Robert Hooke in February 1676
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of
Historians generally think the above quote was an attack on Hooke
(who was short and hunchbacked), rather than – or in addition to – a
statement of modesty. The two were in a dispute over optical
discoveries at the time. The latter interpretation also fits with
many of his other disputes over his discoveries – such as the
question of who discovered calculus as discussed above.
And then in a memoir later
I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I
seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and
diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a
prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth
lay all undiscovered before me.
Newton in popular culture
A character based on Isaac Newton plays a significant role in
The Age of Unreason, a series of four alternate history novels
written by American science fiction and fantasy author Gregory
Newton is an important character in The Baroque Cycle by
Neal Stephenson. A major theme of these novels is the emergence of
modern science, with Newton's work in the Principia being
prominent. Newton's interest in alchemy and the dispute over the
discovery of calculus are prominent plot points, and there is a
(fictional) debate on metaphysics between Newton and Gottfried
Leibniz moderated by Caroline of Ansbach. The development of an
economy based on money and credit is also a major theme, with
Newton's time with the Royal Mint and intrigues against counterfeit
leading to a Trial of the Pyx.
In 2007, David Warner portrayed Newton in the Doctor Who
audio drama Circular Time.
Monuments and commemoration
Newton's monument (1731) can be seen in Westminster Abbey, at the
north of the entrance to the choir against the choir screen. It was
executed by the sculptor Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770) in white and
grey marble with design by the architect William Kent (1685–1748).
The monument features a figure of Newton reclining on top of a
sarcophagus, his right elbow resting on several of his great books
and his left hand pointing to a scroll with a mathematical design.
Above him is a pyramid and a celestial globe showing the signs of
the Zodiac and the path of the comet of 1680. A relief panel depicts
putti using instruments such as a telescope and prism.
The Latin inscription on the base translates as:
Here is buried Isaac Newton, Knight, who by a strength of
mind almost divine, and mathematical principles peculiarly his
own, explored the course and figures of the planets, the paths
of comets, the tides of the sea, the dissimilarities in rays of
light, and, what no other scholar has previously imagined, the
properties of the colours thus produced. Diligent, sagacious and
faithful, in his expositions of nature, antiquity and the holy
Scriptures, he vindicated by his philosophy the majesty of God
mighty and good, and expressed the simplicity of the Gospel in
his manners. Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so
great an ornament of the human race! He was born on 25 December
1642, and died on 20 March 1726/7. — Translation from G.L.
Smyth, The Monuments and Genii of St. Paul's Cathedral, and
of Westminster Abbey (1826), ii, 703–4.
A statue of Isaac Newton, standing over an apple, can be seen at
the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
From 1978 until 1988, an image of Newton designed by Harry
Ecclestone appeared on Series D £1 banknotes issued by the Bank of
England (the last £1 notes to be issued by the Bank of England).
Newton was shown on the reverse of the notes holding a book and
accompanied by a telescope, a prism and a map of the Solar System.