Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is one of the most famous people in the history of mankind. This physicist, mathematician, astronomer and mechanic is one of the founders of classical physics. It was Newton who formulated the law of universal gravitation, his laws formed the basis of modern mechanics. The scientist was involved in the emergence of differential and integral calculus, he created the theory of color, laid the foundations of physical optics.
Almost 300 years have passed since his death, but he appears more as a myth than a real person. A semi-divine scientific genius was a mad alchemist, a dark lonely thinker turned out to be a passionate religious fanatic. Myths usually have a grain of truth, but how much is there in Newton's case? Here are the most popular rumors about the famous scientist that have been debunked with the help of documents.
Newton was a fanatical believer. It is known that Newton attended church regularly. But after studying at Trinity College, he never became a clergyman. But for the graduates of this institution, such a step seemed logical. Numerous theological treatises of Newton provide an understanding of why he did this. Newton believed that the doctrine of the Trinity, in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had equal status from the beginning, was the result of centuries of Christian misrepresentation of the concept. Therefore, this dogma is incorrect. Interestingly, the most famous graduate of Trinity College turned out to be anti-Trinitarian.
Newton was too serious and never laughed. The scientist really became famous for his seriousness, however, there are at least two cases when he laughed. Once the occasion was a joke of a student who took a volume of Euclid's Elements about geometry. The student asked where Isaac's point of fun was. The second time Newton laughed while discussing his theory that comets inevitably crash into the stars around which they revolve. Newton noticed that this applies not only to other stars, but also to the Sun. And his laughter was addressed to the interlocutor, John Conduit, who believed that the theory had nothing to do with us.
Newton was not an alchemist; he was interested in real science. In fact, one tenth of the approximately ten million words recorded by the scientist were devoted specifically to alchemy. There are few original personal treatises on this topic in the archive. But Newton analyzed other authors and their work in detail. The archives contained many copies of the works of alchemists, recipes, records of experiments. This material surprised many of the scientist's biographers. They marveled how such a powerful mind, busy with the study of the material world, could sink to a census of despicable, obvious charlatan works. And if some biographers try to hush up this fact, others proudly call Newton "the last magician" and not "the first scientist."
Newton did not consider comets important to life. In the third book of his "Elements", the scientist wrote that the rarefied vapor in the tails of comets turns to the Earth under the influence of gravity. Here it is necessary to preserve the sea and liquids. Most likely, it is comets that are responsible for that “spirit” that makes up the invisible and useful part of our air. This is how life on Earth is maintained.
Newton was a self-taught genius who single-handedly made all his discoveries. According to this myth, in 1665-1667, Newton, waiting for the plague at his home in Woolsthorpe, made his major discoveries in the fields of physics, optics and mathematics alone. One of the main treasures found by scientists in Newton's work is proof of his scientific genius and the methods used to make discoveries. The scientist's intellect was special compared to his other contemporaries. It is true that 23-year-old Newton was able to make a startling breakthrough in computing and in the theories of gravity and light during a college break caused by the plague. The evidence for these discoveries is in the notebooks that the scientist kept. But there are the same diaries of student years. It shows that Newton read a lot, wrote down and analyzed the works of leading mathematicians and natural scientists. Many of the subsequent discoveries Newton owes precisely to his predecessors.
Newton did not study numerology. For the scientist, the Bible was of particular interest, not only as the main religious text, but also as a collection of riddles. He tried to identify them with the help of numerology. In one of his theological treatises, Newton declares that the Pope is the Antichrist. This statement is based on the appearance in Scripture of the number of the Beast, 666. In another work, Newton writes about the meaning of the number "7", which is prominent in Revelation.
Newton had bad handwriting, like all geniuses. The scientist's handwriting is clear and easy to read. But throughout Newton's life, the spelling changed. In youth, the handwriting was a little angular, while in old age it became more open and rounded. It became more difficult for research not to decipher the words written by the scientist, but to understand his projects, filled with deleted and supplemented fragments. The scholar left behind many very neat documents, especially works on the history of the church. Some of the notes were so clean that researchers fell in love with Newton's writing style.
Newton had a different opinion from the church about the creation of the Earth. Newton believed that the earth was created in seven days. But he believed that at that time the duration of one revolution of the planet was much slower than now. Hence, the day lasted longer.
Thanks to an apple that fell on him from a tree, Newton discovered the law of universal gravitation. I must say that Newton himself had a hand in the appearance of this myth. In an effort to cement his legacy at the end of his life, the scientist told several people, including Voltaire and friend William Stuckley, this story. Allegedly, while waiting for the plague epidemic in Woolsthorpe in 1665-1667, Newton watched falling apples. But the scientist never said that the fetus hit him on the head. At this time, the scientist came up with two ideas: apples fall directly to the ground, without deflection, and that the Earth's gravity extends above the atmosphere. But these ideas were not enough to form the law of universal gravitation. It was finally formed only in 1685, when Edmund Halley asked Newton to calculate the forces responsible for the planet's elliptical orbit.
Newton was a virgin. It's hard to argue. The myth itself came about thanks to Voltaire, who heard it from the scientist's doctor, Richard Mead. Before his death, Newton himself told Tom that he had never slept with a woman. In his Philosophical Letters, the Frenchman noted that Newton never succumbed to passion, did not experience common human weaknesses and did not have relationships with women. During his lifetime, Newton proclaimed his piety and rebuked his friend Locke for trying to drag him into love games. The scientist wrote a passionate article about how other godly people try to tame their lust.
Newton spoke in parliament only once, and even then with a joke. In 1689-1690 and 1791-1792, Newton sat in parliament. There is a joke that he spoke there only once, and even then, with a request to close the window from the draft. In fact, the scientist took his political responsibilities seriously, as well as to everything he undertook.
There were two holes in Newton's door. Legend has it that the scientist made a bigger hole for a larger cat, and a smaller one for another. So they could freely enter the house. In fact, Newton had no cats or other animals in his house.
Newton destroyed the only portrait of Hooke held by the Royal Society. The relationship between the two prominent scientists was tense. But this myth about the manifested hostility is not supported by anything. Hooke's biographers generally believe that no portraits of him existed. In those days, ordering such a picture was an expensive pleasure, and Hooke constantly lacked funds. The only thing that can testify to the existence of the painting is the mention of the German scientist Zachary von Uffenbach, who visited the Royal Society in 1710. He saw a portrait of a certain Hook. Given the poor command of English, it can be assumed that this is a portrait of Theodor Haack, another member of society. And this picture really existed and even survived to this day. The fact that Hooke's paintings never existed is also evidenced by the fact that there is no portrait of the scientist in the posthumous collection of his works, as in all other works.
Newton was an astrologer. Considering Newton's versatile interests, it would be logical to assume his passion for astrology. But no records on this topic were found. If interest existed, then this pseudoscience quickly disappointed Newton.
Newton was a Freemason. The fact of the unexpected appointment of the scientist to the post of steward of the Mint made it possible to assume about his high patrons. But there is no documentary evidence that Newton was a member of the Masonic lodge or other secret societies.