OK, so you know what Sir Isaac Newton is famous for.
Yes it has to do with that picture over there on the left. Beyond that he was a super achiever in optics, mathematics and any number of other things.
You may even know a few other things he accomplished during his 84 years.
- a description of the three laws of motion
- built the first practical reflecting telescope
- developed a theory of color based on the observation of a prism
- developed differential and integral calculus
He is also generally credited with the generalized binomial theorem.
He discovered classified cubic plane curves.
He also served as warden of the Royal Mint. He was a member of the Parliament of England. He was a member of and later president of The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. (Now known as The Royal Society.) He was a fellow and professor at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Sir Isaac Newton was indeed a man of passion, observation and action.
What you may not know is that he also wrote in his personal journals which are referred to as his notebooks.
We know of four that are still in existence.
There is the Fitzwilliam Notebook which is housed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.
This notebook has the intriguing list Newton wrote in 1662 of all the sins he could remember having recently committed. It also contains an accounting of his debits and credits. If you look further you see his notes about triangles, some theorems and a number of descriptions of mathematical applications.
The genius next door.
I read one author who lamented the notion that Newton wrote no personal diary or journal. Cough, cough. Are you kidding? This notebook and the three others are a wealth of information about how Newton thought and what he thought about. Considering the fact that Newton wrote every thing he wrote by hand (he wrote many more things than just these four notebooks) and he wrote about his ideas and beliefs my conclusion is much of what he wrote can be considered journaling. Besides that, what more could you ask of the genius next door?
Another Newton Journal
The Pierpont Morgan Notebook is located in, of all places, the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. This notebook starts with the words, “Of Drawing.” After that there is a long list of art supplies, ways to make art supplies and directions for creating art. The next heading is, “Certain Tricks.” A few of the items from that list – to turn water into wine, a remedy for tooth-ache, and The use of the table on a Ruler whereby to make a dyall for any latitude.
A little further into the journal you find The Declination Semidiurnall arch & southing of some of the fixed stars before or after the 7 stars. Yeah, I know. I don’t get it either, but I suspect there are more than a few scientists who do. Newton even had something to say about “Of a Perpetuall Motion.”
Skim a little deeper and there is a series of words. Apparently Newton used his journal as a place for handwriting exercises or maybe as a way to build vocabulary. Most of the words are copied verbatim from a popular text-book of the day, Francis Gregory’s Nomenclatura brevis anglo-Latino.
The Trinity College Notebook
The Trinity College Notebook records Newton’s undergraduate expenses and copy of a textbook on Latin pronunciation.
You would think Sir Isaac Newton had taken a class from me concerning how to journal. Well, he may have gotten just a bit carried away. I suggest copying some or a few passages which are meaningful to you.
But then, who am I to say? Perhaps the entire book was meaningful to Newton. I also teach that recording the cost of everyday items will be of importance to future readers. In this case, I’m just as interested in what he purchased as what he paid for the items. A chicken, a chessboard, my watch, teniscourt, cloathing, are all listed one after the other. The list is rather lengthy.
Questiones quædam Philosophiæ Journal number four
This journal is also housed at Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK.
Off the first mater. Whither it be mathematicall points: or Mathematicall points & parts: or a simple entity before division indistinct: or individualls i.e. Attomes
You guessed it. Newton writes about atoms, vacuums and atoms, the finite and the infinite, time and eternity, motion, heat and cold, as well as tons of other things. Included in this journal is where this article started — Of Gravity and Levity.
The word Newton used to describe his concept of Gravity? Why, Gravitas of course!
Gerard Mooney kindly granted me permission to use the Gravity Poster you see at the top of this article. There is an excellent story behind that poster. Go to http://www.thegravityposter.com to find out all about it. I mean it. Get on over there. You are going to like it.