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SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727)

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 588 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727), English natural philosopher, was born on the 25th of December 1642 (o.s.), at Woolsthorpe, a hamlet in the parish of Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, about 6 m. from Grantham. His father (also Isaac Newton) who farmed a small freehold property of his own, died before his son's birth, a few months after his marriage to Hannah Ayscough, a daughter of James Ayscough of Market-Overton. When Newton was little more than two years old his mother married Barnabas Smith, rector of North Witham. Of this marriage there was issue, Benjamin, Mary and Hannah Smith, and to their children Sir Isaac Newton subsequently left the greater part of his property. After having acquired the rudiments of education at two small schools in hamlets close to Woolsthorpe, Newton was sent at the age of twelve to the grammar school of Grantham. While attending Grantham school Newton lived in the house of Mr Clark, an apothecary of that town. According to his own confession he was far from industrious, and stood very low in his class. An unprovoked attack from the boy next above him led to a fight, in which Newton's pluck gave him the victory. This success seems to have led him to greater exertions, and he rose to be the head boy of the school. He displayed very early a taste and an aptitude for mechanical contrivances. He made windmills, water-clocks, kites and dials, and he is said to have invented a four-wheeled carriage which was to be moved by the rider. In 1656 Mr Smith died, and Newton's mother came back with her three children to Woolsthorpe. Newton was then in his fifteenth year, and, as his mother in all probability intended him to be a farmer, he was taken away from school. He was frequently sent on market days to Grantham with an old and trusty servant, who made all the purchases, while Newton spent his time among the books in Mr Clark's house. It soon became apparent to Newton's relatives that they were making a great mistake in attempting to turn him into a farmer, and he was therefore sent back again to school at Grantham. His mother's brother, William Ayscough, the rector of Burton Coggles, the next parish, was a graduate of Trinity College; Cambridge, and when he found that Newton's mind was wholly devoted to mechanical and mathematical problems, he urged upon Mrs Smith the desirability of sending her son to his own college. He was accordingly admitted a member of Trinity College on the 5th of June 1661, as a subsizar, and was matriculated on the 8th of July. We have scarcely any information as to his attainments when he commenced residence, and very little as to his studies as an undergraduate. It is known that while still at Woolsthorpe Sanderson's Logic had been read by him to such purpose that his tutor at Trinity College excused his attendance at a course of lectures on that subject. Newton tells us himself that, when he had purchased a book on astrology at Stourbridge fair, a fair held close to Cambridge, he was unable, on account of his ignorance of trigonometry, to• understand a figure of the heavens which was drawn in this book. He therefore bought an English edition of Euclid with an index of propositions at the end of it, and, having turned to two or three which he thought likely to remove his difficulties, he found them so self-evident that he put aside Euclid " as a trifling book," and applied himself to the study of Descartes's Geometry. It is reported that in his examination for a scholarship at Trinity, to which he was elected on the 28th of April 1664, he was examined in Euclid by Dr Isaac Barrow, who formed a poor opinion of his knowledge, and that in consequence Newton was led to read the Elements again with care, and thereby to form a more favourable estimate of Euclid's merits. The study of Descartes's Geometry seems to have inspired Newton with a love of the subject, and to have introduced him to the higher mathematics. In a small commonplace book, bearing on the seventh page the date of January 1663/1664, there are several articles on angular sections, and the squaring of curves and " crooked lines that may be squared," several calculations about musical notes, geometrical propositions from Francis Vieta and Frans van Schooten, annotations out of Wallis's Arithmetic of Infinities, together with observations on refraction, on the grinding of " spherical optic glasses," on the errors of lensesand the method of rectifying them, and on the extraction of all kinds of roots, particularly those "in affected powers." And in this same commonplace book the following entry made by Newton himself, many years afterwards, gives a further account of the nature of his work during the period when he was an undergraduate: "July 4, 1699.-By consulting an account of my expenses at Cambridge, in the years 1663 and 1664, I find that in the year 1664 a little before Christmas, I, being then Senior Sophister, bought Schooten's Miscellanies and Cartes' Geometry (having read this Geometry and Oughtred's Clavis clean over half a year before), and borrowed Wallis's works, and by consequence made these annotations out of Schooten and Wallis, in winter between the years 1664 and 1665. At such time I found the method of Infinite Series; and in summer 1665, being forced from Cambridge by the plague, I computed the area of the Hyperbola at Boothby, in Lincolnshire, to two and fifty figures by the same method." That Newton must have begun early to make careful observations of natural phenomena is sufficiently testified by the follow- . ing remarks about halos, which appear in his Optics, book ii. part iv. obs. 13: " The like Crowns appear sometimes about the moon; for in the beginning of the Year 1664, February 19th, at night, I saw two such Crowns about her. The Diameter of the first or innermost was about three Degrees, and that of the second about five Degrees and an half. Next about the moon was a Circle of white, and 'next about that the inner Crown, which was of a bluish green within next the white, and of a yellow and red without, and next about these Colours were blue and green on the inside of the Outward Crown, and red on the outside of it. At the same time there appear'd a Halo about 22 Degrees 35' distant from the center of the moon. It was elliptical, and its long Diameter was perpendicular to the Horizon, verging below farthest from the moon." In January 1665 Newton took the degree of B.A. The persons appointed (in conjunction with the proctors, John Slade of Catharine Hall, and Benjamin Pulleyn of Trinity College, Newton's tutor) to examine the questionists were John Eachard of Catharine Hall and Thomas Gipps of Trinity College. It is a curious accident that we have no information about the respective merits of the candidates for a degree in this year, as the " ordo senioritatis " of the bachelors of arts for the year is omitted in the " Grace Book." It is supposed that it was in 1665 that the method of fluxion first occurred to Newton's mind. There are several papers still existing in Newton's handwriting bearing dates 1665 and 1666 in which the method is described, in some of which dotted or dashed letters are used to represent fluxion,' and in some of which the method is explained without the use of dotted letters. Both in 1665 and in 1666 Trinity College was dismissed on account of the plague. On each occasion it was agreed, as appears by entries in the " Conclusion Book " of the college, bearing dates August 7th, 1665, and June 22nd, 1666, and signed by the master of the college, Dr Pearson, that all fellows and scholars who were dismissed on account of the pestilence be allowed one month's commons. Newton must have left college before August 1665, as his name does not appear in the list of those who received extra commons on that occasion, and he tells us him-self in the extract from his commonplace book already quoted that he was " forced from Cambridge by the plague " in the summer of that year. He was elected a fellow of his college on the 1st of October 1667. There were nine vacancies, one of which was caused by the death of Abraham Cowley in the previous summer, and the nine successful candidates were all of the same academical standing. A few weeks after his election to a fellowship Newton went to Lincolnshire, and did not return to Cambridge till the February following, On the 16th of March 1668 he took his degree of M.A. During the years 1666 to 1669 Newton's studies were of a very varied kind. It is known that he purchased prisms and lenses on two or three several occasions, and also chemicals and a furnace, apparently for chemical experiments;.; but he also employed part of his time on the theory of fluxions and other branches of pure mathematics. He wrote a paper Analysis per Equationes Numero Terminorum Infinitas, which, he put, pro bably in June 1669, into the. hands of Isaac Barrow (them Lucasian professor of mathematics), at the same time giving him permission to communicate the contents,to their common friend John Collins (1624-1683), a mathematician of no mean order. Barrow did this on the 31st of July 1669, but kept the name of the author a secret, and merely told Collins that he was a friend staying at Cambridge, who had a powerful genius for such matters. In a subsequent letter on the loth of August, Barrow expressed his pleasure at hearing the favourable opinion which Collins had formed of the paper, and added, " the name of the author is Newton, a fellow of our college, and a young man, who is only in his second year since he took the degree of master of arts, and who, with an unparalleled genius (eximio quo est acumine), has made very great progress in this branch of mathematics." Shortly afterwards Barrow resigned his chair, and was instrumental in securing Newton's election as his successor. Newton was elected Lucasian professor on the 29th of October 1669. It was his duty as professor to lecture at least once a week in term time on some portion of geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, geography, optics, statics, or some other mathematical subject, and also for two hours in the week to allow an audience to any student who might come to consult with the professor on any difficulties he had met with. The subject which Newton chose for his lectures was optics. The success which attended his researches in optics must have been great, although the results were known only through his own oral lectures, until he presented an account of them to the Royal Society in the spring of 1672. On the 21st of December 1671 he was proposed as a candidate for admission into the Royal Society by Dr Seth Ward, bishop of Salisbury, and on the 11th of January 1672 he was elected a fellow of the Society. At the meeting at which Newton was elected a description of a reflecting telescope which he had in-vented was read, and " it was ordered that a letter should be written by the secretary to Mr Newton to acquaint him of his election into the Society, and to thank him for the communication of his telescope, and to assure him that the Society would take care that all right should be done him with respect to this invention." In his reply to the secretary on the 18th of January 1672, Newton writes: " I desire that in your next letter you would inform me for what time the society continue their weekly meetings; because, if they continue them for any time, I am purposing them to be considered of and examined an account of a philosophical discovery, which induced me to the making of the said telescope, and which I doubt not but will prove much more grateful than the communication of that instrument being in my judgment the oddest if not the most considerable detection which hath hitherto been made into the operations of nature." The promise here made was fulfilled in a communication which Newton addressed to Henry Oldenburg, the secretary of the Royal Society, on the 6th of February 1672, and which was read before the society two days afterwards. The whole is printed in No. 8o of the Philosophical Transactions. After explaining his discovery of the composition of white light, he proceeds: " When I understood this, I left off my aforesaid Glass works; for I saw, that the perfection of Telescopes was hitherto limited, not so much for want of glasses truly figured according to the prescriptions of Optick Authors (which all men have hitherto imagined), as because that Light itself is a Heterogeneous mixture of differently refrangible Rays. So that, were a glass so exactly figured as to collect any one sort of rays into one point, it could not collect those also into the same point, which having the same Incidence upon the same Medium are apt to suffer a different refraction. Nay, I wondered, that seeing the difference of refrangibility was so great, as I found it, Telescopes should arrive to that perfection they are now at." He then points out why " the object-glass of any Telescope cannot collect all the rays which come from one point of an object, so as to make them convene at its focus in less room than in a circular space, whose diameter is the Both part of the Diameter of its Aperture: which is an irregularity some hundreds of times greater, than a circularly figured Lens, of so small a section as the Object-glasses of long Telescopes are, would cause by the unfitness of its figure, were Light uniform." He adds: "This made me take reflections into consideration, and finding them regular, so that the Angle of Reflection of all sorts of Rays was equal to their Angle of Incidence; I understood, that by their mediation Optick instruments might be brought to any degree of perfection imaginable, provided a Reflecting substance could be found, which would polish as finely as Glass, and reflect as much light, as glass transmits, and the art of communicating to it a Parabolick figure be also attained.. But these seemed very great difficulties, and I have almost thought them insuperable, when I further considered, that every irregularity in a reflecting superficies makes the rays stray 5 or 6 times more out of their due course, than the like irregularities in a refracting one; so that a much greater curiosity would be here requisite, than in figuring glasses for Refraction. " Amidst these thoughts I was forced from Cambridge by the Intervening Plague, and it was more than two years before I proceeded further. But then having thought on a tender way of polishing, proper for metall, whereby, as I imagined, the figure also would be corrected to the last; I began to try, what might be effected in this kind, and by degrees so far perfected an Instrument (in the essential parts of it like that I sent to London), by which I could discern Jupiters 4 Concomitants, and shewed them divers times to two others of my acquaintance. I could also discern the Moon-like phase of Venus, but not very distinctly, nor without some niceness in disposing the Instrument. " From that time I was interrupted till this last Autumn, when I made the other. And as that was sensibly better than the first (especially for Day-Objects), so I doubt not, but they will be still brought to a much greater perfection by their endeavours, who, as you inform me, are taking care about it at London." After a remark that microscopes seem as capable of improvement as telescopes, he adds: " I shall now proceed to acquaint you with another more notable difformity in its Rays, wherein the Origin of Colour is unfolded: Concerning which I shall lay down the Doctrine first, and then, for its examination, give you an instance or two of the Experiments, as a specimen of the rest. The Doctrine you will find comprehended and illustrated in the following propositions: " 1. As the Rays of light differ in degrees of Refrangibility, so they also differ in their disposition to exhibit this or that particular colour. Colours are not Qualifications of Light, derived from Refractions, or Reflections of natural Bodies (as 'tis generally believed), but original and connate properties, which in divers Rays are divers. Some Rays are disposed to exhibit a red colour and no other; some a yellow and no other, some a green and no other, and so of the rest. Nor are there only Rays proper and particular to the more eminent colours, but even to all their intermediate gradations. " 2. To the same degree of Refrangibility ever belongs the same colour, and to the same colour ever belongs the same degree of Refrangibility. The least Refrangible Rays are all disposed to exhibit a Red colour, and contrarily those Rays, which are disposed to exhibit a Red colour, are all the least Refrangible: So the most refrangible Rays are all disposed to exhibit a deep Violet Colour, and contrarily those which are apt to exhibit such a violet colour are all the most Refrangible. " And so to all the intermediate colours in a continued series belong intermediate degrees of refrangibility. And this Analogy 'twixt colours, and refrangibility is very precise and strict; the Rays always either exactly agreeing in both, or proportionally disagreeing in both. " 3. The species of colour, and degree of Refrangibility proper to any particular sort of Rays, is not mutable by Refraction, nor by Reflection from natural bodies, nor by any other cause, that I could yet observe. When any one sort of Rave hath been well parted from those of other kinds, it hath afterwards obstinately retained its colour, notwithstanding my utmost endeavours to change it. I have refracted it with Prismes, and reflected it with Bodies, which in Day-light were of other colours; I have intercepted it with the coloured film of Air interceding two compressed plates of glass, transmitted it through coloured Mediums, and through Mediums irradiated with other sorts of Rays, and diversly terminated it; and yet could never produce any new colour out of it. It would by contracting or dilating become more brisk, or faint, and by the loss of many Rays, in some cases very obscure and dark; but I could never see it changed in specie. " Yet seeming transmutations of Colours may be made, where there is any mixture of divers sorts of Rays. For in such mixtures, the component colours appear not, but, by their 'mutual allaying each other constitute a midling colour." Further on, after some remarks on the subject of compound colours, he says: " I might add more instances of this nature, but I shall conclude with this general one, that the Colours of all natural Bodies have no other origin than this, that they are variously qualified to reflect one sort of light in greater plenty then another. And this I have experimented in a dark Room by illuminating those bodies with uncompounded light of divers colours. For by that means any body may be made to appear of any colour. They have there no appropriate colour, but ever appear of the colour of the light cast upon them, but yet with this difference, that they are most brisk and vivid in the light of . their own day-light colour. Minium appeareth there of any colour indifferently, with which 'tis illustrated, but yet most luminous in red, and so Bise appeareth indifferently of any colour with which 'tis illustrated, but yet most luminous in blew. And therefore minium reflecteth Rays of any colour, but most copiously those indeed with red; and consequently when illustrated with day-light, that is with all sorts of Rays promiscuously blended, those qualified with red shall abound most in the reflected binocular vision. He also invented a reflecting sextant for observing. the distance between the moon and the fixed stars,—the same in every essential as the instrument which is still in everyday use at sea under the name of Hadley's quadrant. This discovery was communicated by him to Edmund Halley in 1700, but was not published, or communicated to the Royal Society, till after Newton's death, when a description of it was found among his papers. In March 1673 Newton took a prominent part in a dispute in the university. The public oratorship fell vacant, and a contest arose between the heads of the colleges and the members of the senate as to the mode of electing to the office. The heads claimed the right of nominating two persons, one of whom was to be elected by the senate. The senate insisted that the proper mode was by an open election. The duke of Buckingham, who was the chancellor of the university, endeavoured to effect a compromise which, he says, " I hope may for the present satisfy both sides. I propose that the heads may for this time nominate and the body comply, yet interposing (if they think fit) a protestation concerning their plea that this election may not here-after pass for a decisive precedent in prejudice of their claim," and, " whereas I understand that the whole university has chiefly consideration for Dr Henry Paman of St John's and Mr Craven of Trinity College, I do recommend them both to be nominated." The heads, however, nominated Dr Paman and Ralph Sanderson of St John's, and the next day one hundred and twenty-one members of the senate recorded their votes for Craven and ninety-eight for Paman. On the morning of the election a protest in which Newton's name appeared was read, and entered in the Regent House. But the vice-chancellor admitted Paman the same morning, and so ended the first contest of a non-scientific character in which Newton took part. On the 8th of March 1673 Newton wrote to Oldenburg, the secretary of the Royal Society: " Sir, I desire that you will procure that I may be put out from being any longer Fellow of the Royal Societ : for though I honour that body, yet since I see I shall neither profit them, nor (by reason of this distance) can partake of the advantage of their assemblies, I desire to withdraw." Oldenburg must have replied to this by an offer to apply to the Society to excuse Newton the weekly payments, as in a letter of Newton's to Oldenburg, dated the 23rd of June 1673, he says, " For your proffer about my quarterly payments, I thank you, but I would not have you trouble yourself to get them excused, if you have not done it already." Nothing further seems to have been done in the matter until the 28th of January 1675, when Oldenburg informed " the Society that Mr Newton is now in such circumstances that he desires to be excused from the weekly payments." Upon this " it was agreed to by the council that he be dispensed with, as several others are." On the 18th of February 1675 Newton was formally admitted into the Society. The most probable explanation of the cause why Newton wished to be excused from these payments is to be found in the fact that, as he was not in holy orders, his fellowship at Trinity College would lapse in the autumn of 1675. It is true that the loss to his income which this would have caused was obviated by a patent from the crown in April 1675, allowing him as Lucasian professor to retain his fellowship without the obligation of taking holy orders. This must have relieved Newton's mind from a great deal of anxiety about pecuniary matters, as we find him in. November 1676 subscribing £4o towards the building of the new library of Trinity College. It is supposed that it was at Woolsthorpe in the summer of 1666 that Newton's thoughts were directed to the subject of gravity. Voltaire is the authority for the well-known anecdote about the apple. He had his information from Newton's favourite niece Catharine Barton, who married Conduitt, a fellow of the Royal Society, and one of Newton's intimate friends. How much truth there is in what is a plausible and a favourite story can never be known, but it is certain that tradition marked a tree as that from which the apple fell, till 182o, when, owing to decay, the tree was cut down and its wood carefully. preserved. light, and. by their prevalence cause it to appear of that colour. And for the same reason Bise, reflecting blew most copiously, shall appear blew by the excess of those Rays in its reflected Iight; and the like of other bodies. And that this is the intire and adequate cause of their colours, is manifest, because they have no power to change or alter the colours of any sort of Rays incident apart, but put on all colours indifferently, with which they are inlightened. Reviewing what I have written, I see the discourse it self will lead to divers Experiments sufficient for its examination: And therefore I shall not trouble you further, than to describe one of those, which I have already insinuated. " In a darkened Room make a hole in the shut of a window whose diameter may conveniently be about a third part of an inch, to admit a convenient quantity of the Suns light: And there place a clear and colourless Prisme, to refract the mitring light towards the further part of the Room, which, as I said, will thereby be diffused into an oblong coloured Image. Then place a Lens of about three foot radius (suppose a broad Object-glass of a three foot Telescope), at the distance of about four or five foot from thence, through which all those colours may at once be transmitted, and made by its Refraction to convene at a further distance of about ten or twelve feet. If at that distance you intercept this light with a sheet of white paper, you will see the colours converted into whiteness again by being mingled. " But it is requisite, that the Prisme and Lens be placed steddy, and that the paper, on which the colours are cast be moved to and fro; for, by such motion, you will not only find, at what distance the whiteness is most perfect but also see, how the colours gradually convene, and vanish into whiteness, and afterwards having crossed one another in that place where they compound Whiteness, are again dissipated and severed, and in an inverted order retain the same colours, which they had before they entered the composition. You may also see, that, if any of the Colours at the Lens be intercepted, the Whiteness will be changed into the other colours. And therefore, that the composition of whiteness be perfect, care must be taken, that none of the colours fall besides the Lens." He concludes his communication with the words: " This, I conceive, is enough for an Introduction to Experiments of this kind: which if any of the R. Society shall be so curious as to prosecute, I should be very glad to be informed with what success: That, if any thing seem to be defective, or to thwart this relation, I may have an opportunity of giving further direction about it, or of acknowledging my errors, if I have committed any." The publication of these discoveries led to a series of controversies which lasted for several years, in which Newton had to contend with the eminent English natural philosopher Robert Hooke; Lucas, mathematical professor at Liege; Linus, a physician in Liege, and many others. Some of his opponents denied the truth of his experiments, refusing to believe in the existence of the spectrum. Others criticized the experiments, saying that the length of the spectrum was never more than three and a half times the breadth, whereas Newton found it to be five times the breadth. It appears that Newton made the mistake of supposing that all prisms would give a spectrum of exactly the same length; the objections of his opponents led him to measure carefully the lengths of spectra formed by prisms of different angles and of different refractive indices; and it seems strange that he was not led thereby to the discovery of the different dispersive powers of different refractive substances. Newton carried on the discussion with the objectors with great courtesy and patience, but the amount of pain which these perpetual discussions gave to his sensitive mind may be estimated from the fact of his writing on the 18th of November 1676 to Oldenburg: " I promised to send you an answer to Mr Lucas this next Tuesday, but I find I shall scarce finish what I have designed, so as to get a copy taken of it by that time, and therefore I beg your patience a week longer. I see I nave made myself a slave to philosophy, but if I get free of Mr Lucas's business, I will resolutely bid adieu to it eternally, excepting what I do for my private satisfaction, or leave to come out after me; for I see a man must either resolve to put out nothing new, or to become a slave to defend it." It was a fortunate circumstance that these disputes did not so thoroughly damp Newton's ardour as he at the time felt they would. He subsequently published many papers in the Philosophical Transactions on various parts of the science of optics, and, although some of his views have.been found to be erroneous, and are now almost universally rejected, his investigations led to discoveries which are of permanent value. He succeeded in explaining the colour of thin and of thick plates, and the inflexion of light, and he wrote on double refraction, polarization and Johann Kepler had proved by an elaborate series of measurements that each planet revolves in an elliptical orbit round the sun, whose centre occupies one of the foci of the orbit, that the radius vector of each planet drawn from the sun describes equal areas in equal times, and that the squares of the periodic times of the planets are in the same proportion as the cubes of their mean distances from the sun. The fact that heavy bodies have always a tendency to fall to the earth, no matter at what height they are.placed above the earth's surface, seems to have led Newton to conjecture that it was possible that the same tendency to fall to the earth was the cause by which the moon was retained in its orbit round the earth. Newton, by calculating from Kepler's laws, and supposing the orbits of the planets to be circles round the sun in the centre, had already proved that the force of the sun acting upon the different planets must vary as the inverse square of the distances of the planets from the sun. He therefore was led to inquire whether, if the earth's attraction extended to the moon, the force at that distance would be of the exact magnitude necessary to retain the moon in its orbit. He found that the moon by her motion in her orbit was deflected from the tangent in every minute of time through a space of thirteen feet. But by observing the distance through which a body would fall in one second of time at the earth's surface, and by calculating from that on the supposition of the force diminishing in the ratio of the inverse square of the distance, he found that the earth's attraction at the distance of the moon would draw a body through 15 ft. in r min. Newton regarded the discrepancy between the results as a proof of the inaccuracy of his conjecture, and " laid aside at that time any further thoughts of this matter." But in 1679 a controversy between Hooke and Newton, about the form of the path of a body falling from a height, taking the motion of the earth round its axis into consideration, led Newton again to revert to his former conjectures on the moon. The measure of the earth, which had hitherto been accepted by geographers and navigators, was based on the very rough estimate that the length of a degree of latitude of the earth's surface measured along a meridian was 6o m. More accurate estimates had been made by R. Norwood and W. Snell, and more recently by P. Picard. At a meeting of the Royal Society on the 11th of January 1672, Oldenburg the secretary read a letter from Paris describing the method followed by Picard in measuring a degree, and specifically stating the precise length that he calculated it to be. It is probable that Newton had become acquainted with this measurement of Picard's, and that he, was therefore led to make use of it when his thoughts were redirected to the subject. This estimate of the earth's magnitude, giving 69•r m. to 1°, made the two results, the discrepancy between which Newton had regarded as a disproof of his conjecture, to agree so exactly that he now regarded his conjecture as fully established. In January 1684 Sir Christopher Wren, Halley and Hooke were led to discuss. the law of gravity, and, although probably they all agreed in the truth of the law of the inverse square, yet this truth was not looked upon as established. It appears that Hooke professed to have a solution of the problem of the path of a body moving round a centre of force attracting as the inverse square of the distance; but Halley, finding, after a delay of some months, that Hooke " had not been so good as his word in showing his solution to Wren, started in the month of August 1684 for Cambridge to consult Newton on the subject. Without mentioning the speculations which had been made, he asked Newton what would be the curve described by a planet round the sun on the assumption that the sun's force diminished as the square of the distance. Newton replied promptly, "an ellipse," and on being questioned by Halley as to the reason for his answer he replied, " Why, I have calculated it." He could not, however, put his hand upon his calculation, but he promised to send it to Halley. After the latter had left Cam bridge, Newton set to work to reproduce the calculation. After making a mistake and producing a different result he corrected his work and obtained his former result. In the following November Newton redeemed his promiseto Halley by sending him, by the hand of Mr Paget, one of the fellows of his own college, and at that time mathematical master of Christ's Hospital, a copy of his demonstration; and very soon afterwards Halley paid another visit to Cambridge to confer with Newton about the problem; and on his return to London on the loth of December 1684, he informed the Royal Society " that he had lately seen Mr Newton at Cam-bridge, who had showed him a curious treatise De Motu," which at Halley's desire he promised to send to the Society to be entered upon their register. " Mr Halley was desired to put Mr Newton in mind of his promise for the securing this invention to himself, till such time as he could be at leisure to publish it," and Paget was desired to join with Halley in urging Newton to do so. By the middle of February Newton had sent his paper to Aston, one of the secretaries of the Society, and in a letter to Aston dated the 23rd of February 1685, we find Newton thanking him for " having entered on the register his notions about motion." This treatise De Motu was the germ of the Principia, and was obviously meant to be a short account of what that work was intended to embrace. It occupies twenty-four octavo pages, -and consists of four theorems and seven problems, some of which are identical with some of the most important pro-positions of the second and third sections of' the first book of the Principia. The years 1685 and 1686 will ever be memorable in the history of science. It was in them that Newton composed almost the whole of his great work. During this period Newton had a very extensive correspondence with John Flamsteed, who was then the astronomer-royal. Many of the letters are lost, but it is clear from one of Newton's, dated the 19th of September 1685, that he had received many useful communications from Flamsteed, and especially regarding Saturn, " whose orbit, as defined by Kepler," Newton "found too little for the sesquialterate proportions." In the other letters written in 1685 and 1686 he applies to Flamsteed for information respecting the orbits of the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, respecting the rise and fall of the spring and neap tides at the solstices and the equinoxes, respecting the flattening of Jupiter at the poles (which, if certain, he says, would conduce much to the stating the reasons of the precession of the equinoxes), and respecting the difference between the observed places of Saturn and those computed from Kepler's tables about the time of his conjunction with Jupiter. On this last point the information supplied by Flamsteed was peculiarly gratifying to Newton; and it is obvious from the language of this part of his letter that he had still doubts of the universal application of the sesquialteral pro-portion. " Your information," he says, " about the errors of Kepler's tables for Jupiter and Saturn has eased me of several scruples. I was apt to suspect there might be some cause or other unknown to me which might disturb the sesquialteral proportions, for the influences of the planets one upon another seemed not great enough, though I imagined Jupiter's influence greater than your numbers determine it. It would add to my satisfaction if you would be pleased to let me know the long diameters of the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, assigned by yourself and Mr Halley in your new tables, that I may .see how the sesquialteral proportion fills the heavens, together with another small proportion which must be allowed for." Upon Newton's return from Lincolnshire in the beginning of April 1685, he seems to have devoted himself to the preparation of his work. In the spring he had determined the attractions of masses, and thus completed the law of universal gravitation. In the 'summer he had finished-the second book of the Principia, the first book being the treatise De Motu, which he had enlarged and completed. Excepting in the correspondence with Flamsteed we hear nothing more of the preparation of the Principia until the 21st of April 1686, when Halley read to the Royal Society his Discourse concerning Gravity and its Properties, in which he states " that his worthy countryman Mr Isaac Newton has an incomparable treatise of motion almost ready for the press," and that the law of the inverse square " is the principle on which Mr Newton has made out all the phenomena of the celestial motions, so easily and naturally, that its truth is past dispute." At the next meeting of the Society, on the 28th of April, " Dr Vincent presented to the Society a manuscript treatise entitled Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, and dedicated to the Society by Mr Isaac Newton." Although this manuscript contained only the first book, yet such was the confidence the Society placed in the author that an order was given " that a letter of thanks be written to Mr Newton; and that the printing of his book be referred to the consideration of the council; and that in the meantime the book be put into the hands of Mr Halley, to make a report thereof to the council." Although there could be no doubt as to the intention of this report, yet no step was taken towards the publication of the work. At the next meeting of the Society, on the loth of May, some dissatisfaction seems to have been expressed at the delay, as it was ordered " that Mr Newton's work should be printed forthwith in quarto, and that a letter should be written to him to signify the Society's resolutions, and to desire his opinion as to the print, volume, cuts and so forth." Three days afterwards Halley communicated the resolution to Newton, and stated to him that the printing was to be at the charge of the Society. At the next meeting of the council, on the 2nd of June, it was again ordered " that Mr Newton's book be printed," but, instead of sanctioning the resolution of the general meeting to print it at their charge, they added " that Mr Halley undertake the business of looking after it, and printing it at his own charge, which he engaged to do." In order to explain to Newton the cause of the delay, Halley in his letter of the 22nd of May alleges that it arose from " the president's attendance on the king, and the absence of the vice-presidents, whom the good weather had drawn out of town"; but there is reason to believe that this was not the true cause, and that the unwillingness of the council to undertake the publication arose from the state of the finances of the Society. Halley certainly deserves the gratitude of posterity for undertaking the publication of the work at a very considerable pecuniary risk to himself. In the same letter Halley found it necessary to inform Newton of Hooke's conduct when the manuscript of the Principia was presented to the Society. Sir John Hoskyns was in the chair when Dr Vincent presented the manuscript, and passed a high encomium on the novelty and dignity of the subjc-t. Hooke was offended because Sir John did not mention what he had told him of his own discovery. Halley only communicated to Newton the fact " that Hooke had some pretensions to the invention of the rule for the decrease of gravity being reciprocally as the squares of the distances from the centre," acknowledging at the same time that, though Newton had the notion from him, " yet the demonstration of the curves generated thereby belonged wholly to Newton." " How much of this," Halley adds, " is so, you know best, so likewise what you have to do in this matter; only Mr Hooke seems to expect you should make some mention of him in the preface, which 'tis possible you may see reason to prefix. I must beg your pardon that 'tis I that send you this ungrateful account; but I thought it my duty to let you know it, so that you might act accordingly, being in myself fully satisfied that nothing but the greatest candour imaginable is to be expected from a person who has of all men the least need to borrow reputation." In thus appealing to Newton's candour, Halley obviously wished that some acknowledgment of Hooke should be made. He knew indeed that before Newton had announced the inverse law Hooke and Wren and himself had spoken of it and discussed it, and therefore justice demanded that, though none of them had given a demonstration of the law, Hooke especially should receive credit for having maintained it as a truth of which he was seeking the demonstration. On the loth of June I686 Newton wrote to Halley the following letter: " Sir,—In order to let you know the case between Mr Hooke and me, I give you an account of what passed between us in our letters, so far as I could remember; for 'tis long since they were writ, and I do not know that I have seen them since. I am almost confident by circumstances, that Sir Chr. Wren knew the duplicate proportionwhen I gave him a visit; and then Mr Hooke(by his book Cometa written afterwards) will prove the last of us three that knew it. I intended in this letter to let you understand the case fully; but it being a frivolous business, I shall content myself to give you, the heads of it in short, viz. that I never extended the duplicate pro-portion lower than to the superficies of the earth, and before a certain demonstration I found the last year, have suspected it did not reach accurately enough down so low; and therefore in the doctrine of projectiles never used it nor considered the motions of the heavens; and consequently Mr Hooke could not from my letters, which were about projectiles and the regions descending hence to the centre, conclude me ignorant of the theory of the heavens. That what he told me of the duplicate proportion was erroneous, namely, that it reached down from hence to the centre of the earth. " That it is not candid to require me now to confess myself, in print, then ignorant of the duplicate proportion in the heavens; for no other reason, but because he had told it me in the case of projectiles, and so upon mistaken grounds, accused me of that ignorance. That in my answer to his first letter I refused his correspondence, told him I had laid philosophy aside, sent him only the experiment of projectiles (rather shortly hinted than carefully described), in compliment to sweeten my answer, expected to hear no further from him; could scarce persuade myself to answer his second. letter; did not answer his third, was upon other things; thought no further of philosophical matters than his letters put me upon it, and therefore may be allowed not to have had my thoughts of that kind about me so well at that time. That by the same reason he concludes me then ignorant of the rest of the duplicate proportion, he may as well conclude me ignorant of the rest of that theory I had read before in his books. That in one of my papers writ (I cannot say in what year, but I am sure some time before I had any correspondence with Mr Oldenburg, and that's above fifteen years ago), the proportion of the forces of the planets from the sun, reciprocally duplicate of their distances from him, is expressed, and the proportion of our gravity to the moon's conatus recedendi a centro terrae is calculated, though not accurately enough. That when Hugenius put out his Horol. Oscil., a copy being presented to me, in my letter of thanks to him I gave those rules in the end thereof a particular commendation for their usefulness in Philosophy, and added out of my aforesaid paper an instance of their usefulness, in comparing the forces of the moon from the earth, and earth. from the sun; in determining a problem about the moon's phase, and putting a limit to the sun's parallax, which shews that I had then my eye upon comparing the forces of the planets arising from their circular motion, and understood it; so that a while after, when Mr Hooke' propounded the problem solemnly, in the end of his attempt to prove the motion of the earth, if I had not known the duplicate proportion before, I could not but have found it now. Between ten and eleven years ago there was an hypothesis of mine registered in your books, wherein I' hinted a cause of gravity towards the earth, sun and planets, with the dependence of the celestial motions thereon; in which the proportion of the decrease of gravity from the superficies of the planet (though for brevity's sake not there expressed) can be no other than reciprocally duplicate of the distance from the centre. And I hope I shall not be urged to declare, in print, that' I understood not the obvious mathematical condition of my own hypothesis. But, grant I received it afterwards from Mr Hooke, yet have I as great a right to it as to the ellipsis. For as Kepler knew the orb to be not circular but oval, and guessed it to be elliptical, so Mr Hooke, without knowing what I have found out since his letters to me, can know no more, but that the proportion was duplicate quam proxime at great distances from the centre, and only guessed it to be so accurately, and guessed amiss in extending that proportion down to the very centre, whereas Kepler guessed right at the ellipsis. And so. Mr Hooke found less of the proportion than Kepler of the ellipsis. " There is so strong an objection against the accurateness of this proportion, that without my demonstrations, to which Mr Hooke is yet a stranger, it cannot be believed by a judicious philosopher to be any where accurate. And so, in stating this business, I do pretend to have done as much for the proportion as for' the ellipsis, and to have as much right to the one from Mr Hooke and all men, as to the other from Kepler; and therefore on this account also he must at least moderate his pretences. The proof you sent me I like very well. I designed the whole to consist of three books; the second was finished last summer being short, and only wants transcribing, and drawing the cuts fair]''. Some new propositions I have since thought on, which I can as well let alone. The third wants the theory of comets. In autumn last I spent two months in calculations to no purpose for want of a good method, which made me afterwards return to the first book, and enlarge it with divers propositions, some relating to comets, others to other things, found out last winter. The third I now-design td sup-press. ' Philosophy is such an impertinently litigious lady, that a man has as good be engaged in lawsuits, as have to do with her. I found it so formerly, and now I am no sooner come near her again, but she gives me warning. The two first books, without the third, will not so well bear the title of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematics; and therefore I had altered' it to , this, De. Motu Corporum libri duo. " But, upon second thoughts, I retain the former title. 'Twill help the sale of the book, which I ought not to diminish now 'tis yours. The articles are, with the largest, to be called by that name; if you please you may change the word to sections, though it be not material. In the frst page, I have struck out the words ' uti posthac docebitur,' as referring to the third book; which is all at present, from your affectionate friend, and humble servant, " IS. NEWTON." On the 29th of June 1686 Halley wrote to Newton:—" I am heartily sorry that in this matter, wherein all mankind ought to acknowledge their obligations to you, you should meet with anything that should give you unquiet "; and then, after an account of Hooke's claim to the discovery as made at a meeting of the Royal Society, he concludes: " But I found that they were all of opinion that nothing thereof appearing in print, nor on the books of the Society, you ought to be considered as the inventor. And if in truth he knew it before you, he ought not to blame any but himself for having taken no more care to secure a discovery, which he puts so much value on. What application he has made in private, I know not; but I am sure that the Society have a very great satisfaction, in the honour you do them, by the dedication of so worthy a treatise. Sir, I must now again beg you, not to let your resentments run so high, as to deprive us of your third book, wherein the application of your mathematical doctrine to the theory of comets and several curious experiments, which, as I guess by what you write, ought to compose it, will undoubtedly render it acceptable to those, who will call themselves Philosophers without Mathematics, which are much the greater number. Now you approve of the character and paper, I will push on the edition vigorously. I have sometimes had thoughts of having the cuts neatly done in wood, so as to stand in the page with the demonstrations. It will be more convenient, and not much more charge. If it please you to have it so, I will try how well it can be done; otherwise I will have them in somewhat a larger size than those you have sent up.—I am, Sir, your most affectionate humble servant, E. HAL.LEY." On the 3oth of June 1686 the president was desired by the council to license Newton's book, entitled Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. On the 14th of July 1686 Newton wrote to Halley approving of his proposal to introduce woodcuts among the letterpress, stating clearly the different things which he had from Hooke, and adding, " And now having sincerely told you the case between Mr Hooke and me, I hope I shall be free for the future from the prejudice of his letters. I have considered how best to compose the present dispute, and I think it may be done by the inclosed scholium to the fourth proposition." This scholium was—" The inverse law of gravity holds in all the celestial motions, as was discovered also independently by my countrymen Wren, Hooke and Halley." After this letter of Newton's the printing of the Principia was begun. The second book, though ready for the press in the autumn of 1686, was not sent to the printers until March 1687. The third book was presented to the Society on the 6th of April 1687, and the whole work published about midsummer in that year. It was dedicated to the Royal Society, and to it was prefixed a set of Latin hexameters addressed by Halley to the author. The work, as might have been expected, caused a great deal of excitement throughout Europe, and the whole of the impression was very soon sold. In 1691 a copy of the Principia was hardly to be procured. While Newton was writing the second and third books of the Principia, a very important event occurred at Cambridge which had the effect of bringing him before the public in a new light. James II. had already, in 1686, in open violation of the law, conferred the deanery of Christ Church at Oxford on John Massey, a person whose sole qualification was that he was a member of the Church of Rome; and the king had boasted to the pope's legate that " what he had done at Oxford would very soon be done at Cambridge." In accordance with this boast, in February 1687 he issued a mandate directing that Father Alban Francis, a Benedictine monk, should be admitted a master of arts of the university of Cambridge, without taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. Upon receiving the mandamus Dr Pechell, the master of Magdalene College, who was vice-chancellor, sent a messenger to the duke of Albemarle, the chancellor, to request him to get the mandamus recalled; and the registrary and the bedells waited upon Francis to offer him
End of Article: SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727)
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