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SIR ISAAC NEWTON

SIR ISAAC NEWTON
THE GREATEST OF SCIENTIFIC PHILOSOPHERS

1642-1727

(INTRODUCTORY NOTE) Of Sir Isaac Newton, universally recognized as the greatest of all scientific or “natural” philosophers, there remains to us only the smallest of autobiographical fragments. Newton began making scientific discoveries at the age of twenty-two, and is said to have formed his first conceptions of his vast theory of “universal gravitation” at twenty-three. Newton's completed work explaining his philosophies in full was published in 1687. He is almost equally celebrated for his scientific work in mathematics and optics.

Newton was also active in public service, defended his university against the tyranny of King James II, and was made a member of the Parliament which reorganized the government after James's overthrow. He held various high government positions, was the president of the Royal Society from 1703 until his death, and was on all occasions the chief scientific representative of his country.

The letter given herewith he wrote in explanation of his discovery of gravitation and his later views upon it. Also he therein explained his spiritual views; for to Newton science and religion were one, each depending upon and establishing the other.

LETTER OF SIR ISAAC NEWTON TO RICHARD BENTLEY

Cambridge, February 11, 1693. SIR,—The hypothesis of deriving the frame of the world bị mechanical principles from matter evenly spread through the heavens being inconsistent with my system, I had considered it very little before your letters put me upon it, and therefore trouble you with a line or two more, if this come not too late for your use. In my former I represented that the diurnal rotations of the planets could not be derived from gravity, but required a divine power to impress them. And though gravity might give the planets a motion of descent towards the sun, either directly or with some little obliquity, yet the transverse motions by which they revolve in their several orbs required the Divine Arm to impress them according to the tangents of their orbs. I would now add, that the hypothesis of matter being at first evenly spread through the heavens is, in my opinion, inconsistent with the hypothesis of innate gravity without a supernatural power to reconcile them, and therefore it infers a Deity. For if there be innate gravity, it's impossible now for the matter of the earth and all the planets and stars to fly up from them, and become evenly spread throughout the heavens, without a supernatural power; and certainly that which can never be hereafter without a supernatural power could never be heretofore without the same power.

You queried whether matter evenly spread throughout a finite space, of some other figure than spherical, would not, in falling down towards a central body, cause that body to be of the same figure with the whole space; and I answered, Yes. But in my answer it is to be supposed that the matter descends directly downwards to that body, and that that body has no diurnal rotation. This, sir, is all that I would add to my former letters. I am, your most humble servant,

Is. NEWTON.

AUTOBIOGRAPHIES IN THE

UNIVERSITY LIBRARY

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IN VOLUME

IN VOLUME Abelard .......

II Darwin, Charles .......... XIV Alfieri, Vittorio........... X De Quincey, Thomas...... XII Al Ghazali .............. II Dickens...

XIV Amiel, Henri Frederic.....

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Digby, Sir Kenelm.... IV Andersen, Hans Christian.. XIII Drake, Sir Francis. Augustine, Saint........

Fouché, Joseph........ Aurelius, Marcus.......

Fox, George .............. Avicenna..............

Franklin, Benjamin ........ VI Bacon, Sir Francis......

Frederick the Great of PrusBarry, Mme. Jeanne Du..

sia ..........

VII Bashkirtseff, Marie ....... XV Froebel, Friedrich ......... XII Beers, Clifford ...........

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Froissart, Sir John........ II Bessemer, Sir Henry ...... XIV Garibaldi...

XIV Bismarck.......

XIV Geikie, Sir Archibald..... Bodley, Sir Thomas... IV Gibbon, Edward. ...... Bunyan, John.....

V Goethe.................. IX Burns, Robert....... x Goldoni, Carlo............ VII Byron............

II Goldsmith, Oliver ......... VIII Cæsar, Augustus ...... I Grammont, Count Philibert Cæsar, Julius ...

I de..........

.......... V Cardan, Jerome..........

Guerin, Eugenie de ........ XIII Cartwright, Peter........ Hamilton, Alexander. ..... Casanova, Jean Jacques.... VIII Hawkes, Clarence..

XV Catherine the Great of Rus

Haydon, Benjamin ......... sia .................... VIII Heine, Heinrich.. ......... XII Cellini ......

........ III Henry the Eighth of EngCharles the Fifth of Ger

land ...................

III many.......

Herbert of Cherbury, Lord. Cibber, Colley ............ VI Holberg, Lewis............ VI Comines, Sir Philip de.... II Hugo, Victor ............. XIII Dante....... .....

Hume, David ............. VII

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