The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newtons Manuscripts

Hardcover | April 23, 2014

bySarah Dry

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When Isaac Newton died in 1727 without a will, he left behind a wealth of papers that, when examined, gave his followers and his family a deep sense of unease. Some of what they contained was wildly heretical and alchemically obsessed, hinting at a Newton altogether stranger and less palatablethan the one enshrined in Westminster Abbey as the paragon of English rationality. These manuscripts had the potential to undermine not merely Newton's reputation, but that of the scientific method he embodied. They were immediately suppressed as "unfit to be printed," and, aside from brief,troubling glimpses spread across centuries, the papers would remain hidden from sight for more than seven generations.In The Newton Papers, Sarah Dry illuminates the tangled history of these private writings over the course of nearly three hundred years, from the long span of Newton's own life into the present day. The writings, on subjects ranging from secret alchemical formulas to impassioned rejections of theHoly Trinity, would eventually come to light as they moved through the hands of relatives, collectors, and scholars. The story of their disappearance, dispersal, and rediscovery is populated by a diverse cast of characters who pursued and possessed the papers, from economist John Maynard Keynes tocontroversial Jewish Biblical scholar Abraham Yahuda. Dry's captivating narrative moves between these varied personalities, depicting how, as they chased the image of Newton through the thickets of his various obsessions, these men became obsessed themselves with the allure of defining the "true"Newton. Dry skillfully accounts for the ways with which Newton's pursuers have approached his papers over centuries. Ultimately, The Newton Papers shows how Newton has been made and re-made throughout history by those seeking to reconcile the cosmic contradictions of an extraordinarily complex man.

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When Isaac Newton died in 1727 without a will, he left behind a wealth of papers that, when examined, gave his followers and his family a deep sense of unease. Some of what they contained was wildly heretical and alchemically obsessed, hinting at a Newton altogether stranger and less palatablethan the one enshrined in Westminster Abbey...

Sarah Dry is a former post-doctoral fellow at the London School of Economics and author of the award-winning biography Curie: Life and Times.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:April 23, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199951047

ISBN - 13:9780199951048

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Table of Contents

PrefaceI. 1727-18221. The last conflagration2. Sincere search3. To gratify men's curiositiesII. 1822-18724. Deranged studies5. Lighting the fire6. Marginal notation7. Any scrap8. Monsters of perfectionIII. 1872-18889. Proudest boast10. A hiatus in the history11. Examine, classify, divideIV. 1888-193612. Human documents13. Hundreds of feet of mellow calf14. Four shillings15. Pioneers of science16. oe9,00017. A very substantial collection18. Arab's antiquities19. Last of the magiciansV. 1936-the present20. Founding of a discipline21. We know nothing of Newton here22. Newtonian industry23. Newton's paper trail24. Unity and flux25. Ultimate value