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The Newton Papers

When Isaac Newton died at 85 without a will on March 20, 1727, he left a mass of disorganized papers-upwards of 8 million words-that presented an immediate challenge to his heirs. Most of these writings, on subjects ranging from secret alchemical formulas to impassioned rejections of the Holy Trinity to notes and calculations on his core discoveries in calculus, universal gravitation, and optics, were summarily dismissed by his heirs as "not fit to be printed." Rabidly heretical, alchemically obsessed, and possibly even mad, the Newton presented in these papers threatened to undermine not just his personal reputation but the status of science itself. As a result, the private papers of the world's greatest scientist remained hidden to all but a select few for over two hundred years. In The Newton Papers, Sarah Dry divulges the story of how this secret archive finally came to light-and the complex and contradictory man it revealed. Covering a broad swath of history, Dry explores who controlled Newton's legacy, who helped uncover him, and what, finally, we know about him today, nearly three hundred years after his death. The Newton Papers presents the eclectic group of collectors, scholars, and scientists who were motivated to track down and collect Newton's private thoughts and obsessions, many of whom led extraordinary lives themselves-from economist John Maynard Keynes to Abraham Yahuda, a friend of Albert Einstein and key figure in the founding of Israel. The 300-year history of the disappearance, dispersal and eventual rediscovery of Newton's papers exposes how Newton has been made, and re-made, at the hands of unique and idiosyncratic individuals, reflecting the changing status of science over the centuries. A riveting and untold story, The Newton Papers reveals a man altogether stranger and more complicated than the genius of legend.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface ; I. 1727-1822 ; 1. The last conflagration ; 2. Sincere search ; 3. To gratify men's curiosities ; II. 1822-1872 ; 4 Deranged studies ; 5. Lighting the fire ; 6. Marginal notation ; 7. Any scrap ; 8. Monsters of perfection ; III. 1872-1888 ; 9. Proudest boast ; 10. A hiatus in the history ; 11. Examine, classify, divide ; IV. 1888-1936 ; 12. Human documents ; 13. Hundreds of feet of mellow calf ; 14. Four shillings ; 15. Pioneers of science ; 16. L9,000 ; 17. A very substantial collection ; 18. Arab's antiquities ; 19. Last of the magicians ; V. 1936-the present ; 20. Founding of a discipline ; 21. We know nothing of Newton here ; 22. Newtonian industry ; 23. Newton's paper trail ; 24. Unity and flux ; 25. Ultimate value

About the Author

Sarah Dry is a former post-doctoral fellow at the London School of Economics and author of the award-winning biography Curie: Life & Times.


Drawing on existing scholarship, it is a story well worth sharing with anyone interested in Newton and how we have, over three hundred years, come to know him and shaped his legacy. Sarah Dry has a colorful and intriguing cast of characters on which to draw, who represent a surprisingly varied set of motives for engaging with Newton's life and literary remains. * Rebekah Higgitt, H-Albion * By identifying the roles of a host of collectors in securing various parts of the collection, Dry does full justice to a fascinating story; it sheds bright light on the range and development of this most brilliant - and most elusive - of minds. Pure joy. * Graham Farmelo, Times Higher Education * Dry is to be congratulated for furnishing us with a fresh and readable chronicle of the tortuous route that Newtons manuscript took to being made public. * Nature * Engaging book * Economist * compelling * Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday * Dry's fine writing and scholarship make this book a useful resource and a good read * Robyn Arianrhod, Times Higher Education * Sarah Dry tells a riveting, beautifully written story * Times Higher Education * Not only is the book a valuable contribution to the history of Newton's work, but it is a most enjoyable read with elements of a good detective story * J. S. Rowlinson, Science Progress *

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