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Sir Isaac Newton
(25 Dec 1642 - 20 Mar 1727)

English physicist and mathematician who made seminal discoveries in several areas of science, and was the leading scientist of his era.

Isaac Newton Quote: like a boy playing on the seashore [pebbles]…whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me
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Amicus Plato amicus Aristoteles magis amica verita.
Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my greatest friend is truth.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Written in the margin of a notebook while a student at Cambridge. In Richard S. Westfall, Never at Rest (1980), 89.
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Hypotheses non fingo.
I frame no hypotheses.
— Sir Isaac Newton
In Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, Statistics and Truth (1997), 31.
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Numero pondere et mensura Deus omnia condidit.
God created everything by number, weight and measure.
— Sir Isaac Newton
On more than one occasion, Newton wrote these Latin words as his autograph, with his signature below. A photo of one example, dated “London 11 Sep 1722,” can be seen in I. Hargitta (ed.), Symmetry 2: Unifying Human Understanding (2014), 837. Reprinted from M. and B. Rozsondai, 'Symmetry Aspects of Bookbindings', Computers Math. Applic. (1989), 17, No. 4-6, 837. On this piece of paper, Newton dedicated these words to a Hungarian student, Ferenc Páriz Pápai Jr., whose album is now held by the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Shelf-number Tort. naplók, kis 8⁰ 6). The sentiment existed long before Newton used it. In the Bible, Wisdom of Solomon, 11:20, it appears as “Pondere, mensura, numero Deus omnia fecit,” (Vulgate) which the King James Version translates as “thou hast ordered all things in measure and number and weight.” Another Newton signed autograph with his Latin quote, dated 13 Jul 1716, sold (4 Apr 1991) for DM 9500 (about $31,000). See Dept of English, Temple University, The Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats (1991), 24-25, 230. A few years later, the sale (31 Mar 1998) of Newton's autograph cost the buyer $46,000. See Frank Ryan, Darwin's Blind Spot: Evolution Beyond Natural Selection (2002), 11-12. Other authors, including mathematicians, used the same Biblical passage. In Gilles Personne de Roberval's Aristarchi Samii de Mundi Systemate (1644), he frequently uses the abbreviation “P.N.E.M.” standing for “Pondere, mensura et mensura.” It was adopted as the motto of the Smeatonian Society of Engineers as “Omnia in Numero Pondere et Mensura.”
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Qu. 31. Have not the small Particles of Bodies certain Powers, Virtues or Forces, by which they act at a distance, not only upon the Rays of Light for reflecting, refracting and reflecting them, but also upon one another for producing a great part of the Phænomena of Nature?
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 350.
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A Vulgar Mechanick can practice what he has been taught or seen done, but if he is in an error he knows not how to find it out and correct it, and if you put him out of his road, he is at a stand; Whereas he that is able to reason nimbly and judiciously about figure, force and motion, is never at rest till he gets over every rub.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter (25 May 1694) to Nathaniel Hawes. In J. Edleston (ed.), Correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Cotes (1850), 284.
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Absolute space, of its own nature without reference to anything external, always remains homogenous and immovable. Relative space is any movable measure or dimension of this absolute space; such a measure or dimension is determined by our senses from the situation of the space with respect to bodies and is popularly used for immovable space, as in the case of space under the earth or in the air or in the heavens, where the dimension is determined from the situation of the space with respect to the earth. Absolute and relative space are the same in species and in magnitude, but they do not always remain the same numerically. For example, if the earth moves, the space of our air, which in a relative sense and with respect to the earth always remains the same, will now be one part of the absolute space into which the air passes, now another part of it, and thus will be changing continually in an absolute sense.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Definitions, Scholium, 408-9.
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Absolute, true, and mathematical time, in and of itself and of its own nature, without reference to anything external, flows uniformly and by another name is called duration. Relative, apparent, and common time is any sensible and external measure (precise or imprecise) of duration by means of motion; such as a measure—for example, an hour, a day, a month, a year—is commonly used instead of true time.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Definitions, Scholium, 408.
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Against filling the Heavens with fluid Mediums, unless they be exceeding rare, a great Objection arises from the regular and very lasting Motions of the Planets and Comets in all manner of Courses through the Heavens.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks: Or, A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light (1718), 339.
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All material Things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid Particles … variously associated with the first Creation by the Counsel of an intelligent Agent. For it became him who created them to set them in order: and if he did so, it is unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 377-378.
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And for rejecting such a Medium, we have the Authority of those the oldest and most celebrated Philosophers of Greece and Phoenicia, who made a Vacuum, and Atoms, and the Gravity of Atoms, the first Principles of their Philosophy; tacitly attributing Gravity to some other Cause than dense Matter. Later Philosophers banish the Consideration of such a Cause out of natural Philosophy, feigning Hypotheses for explaining all things mechanically, and referring other Causes to Metaphysicks: Whereas the main Business of natural Philosophy is to argue from Phaenomena without feigning Hypotheses, and to deduce Causes from Effects, till we come to the very first Cause, which certainly is not mechanical; and not only to unfold the Mechanism of the World, but chiefly to resolve these and such like Questions. What is there in places almost empty of Matter, and whence is it that the Sun and Planets gravitate towards one another, without dense Matter between them? Whence is it that Nature doth nothing in vain; and whence arises all that Order and Beauty which we see in the World? ... does it not appear from phaenomena that there is a Being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent, who in infinite space, as it were in his Sensory, sees the things themselves intimately, and thoroughly perceives them, and comprehends them wholly by their immediate presence to himself.
— Sir Isaac Newton
In Opticks, (1704, 2nd. Ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 28, 343-5.
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And from true lordship it follows that the true God is living, intelligent, and powerful; from the other perfections, that he is supreme, or supremely perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, he endures from eternity to eternity; and he is present from infinity to infinity; he rules all things, and he knows all things that happen or can happen.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), General Scholium, 941.
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And if one look through a Prism upon a white Object encompassed with blackness or darkness, the reason of the Colours arising on the edges is much the same, as will appear to one that shall a little consider it. If a black Object be encompassed with a white one, the Colours which appear through the Prism are to be derived from the Light of the white one, spreading into the Regions of the black, and therefore they appear in a contrary order to that, when a white Object is surrounded with black. And the same is to be understood when an Object is viewed, whose parts are some of them less luminous than others. For in the borders of the more and less luminous Parts, Colours ought always by the same Principles to arise from the Excess of the Light of the more luminous, and to be of the same kind as if the darker parts were black, but yet to be more faint and dilute.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book I, Part 2, Prop. VIII, Prob. III, 123.
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And thus Nature will be very conformable to her self and very simple, performing all the great Motions of the heavenly Bodies by the Attraction of Gravity which intercedes those Bodies, and almost all the small ones of their Particles by some other attractive and repelling Powers which intercede the Particles. The Vis inertiae is a passive Principle by which Bodies persist in their Motion or Rest, receive Motion in proportion to the Force impressing it, and resist as much as they are resisted. By this Principle alone there never could have been any Motion in the World. Some other Principle was necessary for putting Bodies into Motion; and now they are in Motion, some other Principle is necessary for conserving the Motion.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 372-3.
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Are not all Hypotheses erroneous, in which Light is supposed to consist in Pression or Motion, propagated through a fluid Medium? For in all these Hypotheses the Phaenomena of Light have been hitherto explain'd by supposing that they arise from new Modifications of the Rays; which is an erroneous Supposition.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks, 2nd edition (1718), Book 3, Query 28, 337.
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As I am writing, another illustration of ye generation of hills proposed above comes into my mind. Milk is as uniform a liquor as ye chaos was. If beer be poured into it & ye mixture let stand till it be dry, the surface of ye curdled substance will appear as rugged & mountanous as the Earth in any place.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Thomas Burnet (Jan 1680/1. In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1676-1687 (1960), Vol. 2, 334.
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As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 380.
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Ax: 100 Every thing doth naturally persevere in yt state in wch it is unlesse it bee interrupted by some externall cause, hence... [a] body once moved will always keepe ye same celerity, quantity & determination of its motion.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Newton's 'Waste Book' (1665). Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 145.
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By such deductions the law of gravitation is rendered probable, that every particle attracts every other particle with a force which varies inversely as the square of the distance. The law thus suggested is assumed to be universally true.
— Sir Isaac Newton
In Isaac Newton and Percival Frost (ed.) Newton's Principia: Sections I, II, III (1863), 217.
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Centripetal force is the force by which bodies are drawn from all sides, are impelled, or in any way tend, toward some point as to a center.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Definition 5, 405.

Do not Bodies and Light act mutually upon one another; that is to say, Bodies upon Light in emitting, reflecting, refracting and inflecting it, and Light upon Bodies for heating them, and putting their parts into a vibrating motion wherein heat consists?
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 3, Query 5, 133.
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Do not great Bodies conserve their heat the longest, their parts heating one another, and may not great dense and fix'd Bodies, when heated beyond a certain degree, emit Light so copiously, as by the Emission and Re-action of its Light, and the Reflexions and Refractions of its Rays within its Pores to grow still hotter, till it comes to a certain period of heat, such as is that of the Sun?
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 3, Query II, 135.
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Do not the Rays which differ in Refrangibility differ also in Flexibity; and are they not by their different Inflexions separated from one another, so as after separation to make the Colours in the three Fringes above described? And after what manner are they inflected to make those Fringes?
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 3, Query 2, 132-3.
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Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Axioms, or Laws of Motion, Law 1, 416.
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For nature is a perpetuall circulatory worker, generating fluids out of solids, and solids out of fluids, fixed things out of volatile, & volatile out of fixed, subtile out of gross, & gross out of subtile, Some things to ascend & make the upper terrestriall juices, Rivers and the Atmosphere; & by consequence others to descend for a Requitall to the former. And as the Earth, so perhaps may the Sun imbibe this spirit copiously to conserve his Shineing, & keep the Planets from recedeing further from him. And they that will, may also suppose, that this Spirit affords or carryes with it thither the solary fewell & materiall Principle of Light; And that the vast aethereall Spaces between us, & the stars are for a sufficient repository for this food of the Sunn and Planets.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Oldenburg (7 Dec 1675). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1661-1675 (1959), Vol. 1, 366.
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From what has been said it is also evident, that the Whiteness of the Sun's Light is compounded all the Colours wherewith the several sorts of Rays whereof that Light consists, when by their several Refrangibilities they are separated from one another, do tinge Paper or any other white Body whereon they fall. For those Colours ... are unchangeable, and whenever all those Rays with those their Colours are mix'd again, they reproduce the same white Light as before.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 1, Part 2, Exper. XV, 114.
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He rules all things, not as the world soul but as the lord of all. And because of his dominion he is called Lord God Pantokrator. For 'god' is a relative word and has reference to servants, and godhood is the lordship of God, not over his own body as is supposed by those for whom God i~ the world soul, but over servants. The supreme God is an eternal, infinite, and absolutely perfect being; but a being, however perfect, without dominion is not the Lord God.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), General Scholium, 940-1.
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He that in ye mine of knowledge deepest diggeth, hath, like every other miner, ye least breathing time, and must sometimes at least come to terr. alt. for air.
[Explaining how he writes a letter as break from his study.]
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Dr. Law (15 Dec 1716) as quoted in Norman Lockyer, (ed.), Nature (25 May 1881), 24, 39. The source refers to it as an unpublished letter.
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I cannot calculate the madness of people.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Attributed. As given, without citation, in Samuel Arthur Bent, Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes (1882), 422. Bent states it was Newton’s reply “When asked how high he thought South Sea stock would rise.” Also seen beginning with “I can calculate the orbit of a comet, but…” or “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies….” Note that in a letter to letter to Nicholas Fatio de Duillier (14 Sep 1724) Newton tells that he had himself “lost very much by the South Sea Company.” Lord Radnor is quoted as saying, “When Sir Isaac Newton was asked about the continuance of the rising of South Sea stock?—He answered, “that he could not calculate the madness of the people.” From Second Memorandum Book 1756 of Rev. Spence, in Samuel Weller Singer’s supplement to Rev. Joseph Spence’s collection of anecdotes, Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters, of Books and Men: Collected from the Conversation of Mr. Pope and Other Eminent Persons of His Time. (1820), 368. The South Sea Scheme is referenced in 'Mammon and the Money Market', The Church of England Quarterly Review (Jan 1850), 27, 142, stated without any quotation marks, that: Sir Isaac Newton, when asked what he thought of the infatuation of the people, answered that he could calculate the motions of erratic bodies, but not the madness of a multitude.
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I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
— Sir Isaac Newton
First reported in Joseph Spence, Anecdotes, Observations and Characters, of Books and Men (1820), Vol. 1 of 1966 edn, sect. 1259, p. 462. Purported to have been addressed by Newton in the final year of his life (1727) to Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsey (which conflicts with the Dictionary of National Biography article giving that he was in France at the time). Quoted in David Brewster, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1855), Vol. 2, 407.
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I find more sure marks of the authenticity of the Bible than in any profane history whatever.
— Sir Isaac Newton
As written by Bishop Richard Watson, this anecdote was relayed to him by his former teacher, Dr. Robert Smith, late Master of Trinity College, who was told by Newton, while he was writing his Observations on Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John. Quoted in Richard Watson, 'An Apology For Christianity', Bishop of Landaff’s Sermons on Public Occasions, and Tracts on Religious Subjects (1788), 286. At the time of publication, the author was Lord Bishop of Landaff and Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge. 'Apology' was one in a series of Letters addressed to Ed. Gibbon, Esq (author of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire first printed in 1776). Dr. Robert Smith (1689-2 Feb 1768) was a mathematician who helped to spread Isaac Newton’s ideas in Europe.
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I have been much amused at ye singular φενόμενα [phenomena] resulting from bringing of a needle into contact with a piece of amber or resin fricated on silke clothe. Ye flame putteth me in mind of sheet lightning on a small—how very small—scale.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Dr. Law (15 Dec 1716) as quoted in Norman Lockyer, (ed.), Nature (25 May 1881), 24, 39. The source refers to it as an unpublished letter. Newton's comment relating the spark of static electricity with lightning long predates the work of Benjamin Franklin.
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I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses; for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called a hypothesis, and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Principia. In Isaac Newton, Andrew Motte and N. W. Chittenden, Newton’s Principia (1847), 506-507.
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I have presented principles of philosophy that are not, however, philosophical but strictly mathematical—that is, those on which the study of philosophy can be based. These principles are the laws and conditions of motions and of forces, which especially relate to philosophy.
— Sir Isaac Newton
... It still remains for us to exhibit system of the world from these same principles.
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I see I have made my self a slave to Philosophy.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Henry Oldenburg (18 Nov 1676). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1676-1687 (1960), Vol. 2, 182.
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I use the word “attraction” here in a general sense for any endeavor whatever of bodies to approach one another, whether that endeavor occurs as a result of the action of the bodies either drawn toward one other or acting on one another by means of spirits emitted or whether it arises from the action of aether or of air or of any medium whatsoever—whether corporeal or incorporeal—in any way impelling toward one another the bodies floating therein. I use the word “impulse” in the same general sense, considering in this treatise not the species of forces and their physical qualities but their quantities and mathematical proportions, as I have explained in the definitions.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Book I, Section II, Scholium, 588.
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If I have done the public any service this way, ’tis due to nothing but industry and a patient thought.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From opening of letter to Richard Bentley (17 Jan 1692/3). Collected in Four Letters From Isaac Newton to Doctor Bentley, Containing Some Arguments in Proof of a Deity, (1756), 1.
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If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
[Original spelling: 'ye sholders of Giants.']
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Robert Hooke (5 Feb 1675-6).In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1, 1661-1675 (1959), Vol. 1, 416. Note that Newton may have been using the quotation as used earlier by Robert Burton in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1624). In the early twelfth century, Bernard of Chartres made a similar statement: 'Pigmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves.' For exhaustive treatment of the earlier sources of this aphorism, see Robert K. Merton, On the Shoulders of Giants (1965).
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If the Humours of the Eye by old Age decay, so as by shrinking to make the Cornea and Coat of the Crystalline Humour grow flatter than before, the Light will not be refracted enough, and for want of a sufficient Refraction will not converge to the bottom of the Eye but to some place beyond it, and by consequence paint in the bottom of the Eye a confused Picture, and according to the Indistinctuess of this Picture the Object will appear confused. This is the reason of the decay of sight in old Men, and shews why their Sight is mended by Spectacles. For those Convex glasses supply the defect of plumpness in the Eye, and by increasing the Refraction make the rays converge sooner, so as to convene distinctly at the bottom of the Eye if the Glass have a due degree of convexity. And the contrary happens in short-sighted Men whose Eyes are too plump. For the Refraction being now too great, the Rays converge and convene in the Eyes before they come at the bottom; and therefore the Picture made in the bottom and the Vision caused thereby will not be distinct, unless the Object be brought so near the Eye as that the place where the converging Rays convene may be removed to the bottom, or that the plumpness of the Eye be taken off and the Refractions diminished by a Concave-glass of a due degree of Concavity, or lastly that by Age the Eye grow flatter till it come to a due Figure: For short-sighted Men see remote Objects best in Old Age, and therefore they are accounted to have the most lasting Eyes.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 1, Part 1, Axiom VII, 10-11.
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Impressed force is the action exerted on a body to change its state either of resting or of moving uniformly straight forward.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Definition 4, 405.
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In experimental philosophy, propositions gathered from phenomena by induction should be considered either exactly or very nearly true notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses, until yet other phenomena make such propositions either more exact or liable to exceptions.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687),3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Book 3, Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy, Rule 4, 796.
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In the beginning of the year 1665 I found the Method of approximating series & the Rule for reducing any dignity of any Bionomial into such a series. The same year in May I found the method of Tangents of Gregory & Slusius, & in November had the direct method of fluxions & the next year in January had the Theory of Colours & in May following I had entrance into ye inverse method of fluxions. And the same year I began to think of gravity extending to ye orb of the Moon & (having found out how to estimate the force with wch [a] globe revolving within a sphere presses the surface of the sphere) from Keplers rule of the periodic times of the Planets being in sesquialterate proportion of their distances from the center of their Orbs, I deduced that the forces wch keep the Planets in their Orbs must [be] reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about wch they revolve: & thereby compared the force requisite to keep the Moon in her Orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the earth, & found them answer pretty nearly. All this was in the two plague years of 1665-1666. For in those days I was in the prime of my age for invention & minded Mathematicks & Philosophy more then than at any time since.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 143.
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Inherent force of matter is the power of resisting by which every body, so far as it is able, perseveres in its state either of resting or of moving uniformly straight forward.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Definition 3, 404.
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Is not Fire a Body heated so hot as to emit Light copiously? For what else is a red hot Iron than Fire? And what else is a burning Coal than red hot Wood?
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 3, Query 9, 134.
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It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter without mutual contact … That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance, through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it. Gravity must be caused by an agent, acting constantly according to certain laws; but whether this agent be material or immaterial, I have left to the consideration of my readers.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Third letter to Bentley, 25 Feb 1693. Quoted in The Works of Richard Bentley, D.D. (1838), Vol. 3, 212-3.
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It seems probable to me that God, in the beginning, formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportions to space, as most conduced to the end for which He formed them; and that these primitive particles, being solids, are incomparably harder than any porous bodies compounded of them, even so very hard as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary power being able to divide what God had made one in the first creation.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 375-376.
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It seems to me farther, that these Particles have not only a Vis inertiae, accompanied with such passive Laws of Motion as naturally result from that Force, but also that they are moved by certain active Principles, such as that of Gravity, and that which causes Fermentation, and the Cohesion of Bodies. These Principles I consider, not as occult Qualities, supposed to result from the specifick Forms of Things, but as general Laws of Nature, by which the Things themselves are form'd; their Truth appearing to us by Phaenomena, though their Causes be not yet discover'd. For these are manifest Qualities, and their Causes only are occult.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 376-377.
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Kepler’s laws, although not rigidly true, are sufficiently near to the truth to have led to the discovery of the law of attraction of the bodies of the solar system. The deviation from complete accuracy is due to the facts, that the planets are not of inappreciable mass, that, in consequence, they disturb each other's orbits about the Sun, and, by their action on the Sun itself, cause the periodic time of each to be shorter than if the Sun were a fixed body, in the subduplicate ratio of the mass of the Sun to the sum of the masses of the Sun and Planet; these errors are appreciable although very small, since the mass of the largest of the planets, Jupiter, is less than 1/1000th of the Sun's mass.
— Sir Isaac Newton
In Isaac Newton and Percival Frost (ed.) Newton’s Principia: Sections I, II, III (1863), 216.
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Law 2: A change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and takes place along the straight line in which that force is impressed.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Axioms, or Laws of Motion, Law 2, 416.
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My Design in this Book is not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments: In order to which, I shall premise the following Definitions and Axioms.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 1, Part 1, Introduction, 1.
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Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.
— Sir Isaac Newton
In Isaac Newton and Andrew Motte (trans.), The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1803), Vol. 2, 160. Newton's comment on his Rules of Reasoning Philosophy, Rule 1.
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No more causes of natural things should be admitted than are both true, and sufficient to explain their phenomena.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Book 3, Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy, Rule 1, 794. Cause;Explanation;Principle;Phenomenon

No old Men (excepting Dr. Wallis) love Mathematicks.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Comment made by Newton to William Whiston. Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 139.
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Now if Light be reflected, not by impinging on the solid parts of Bodies, but by some other principle; it's probable that as many of its Rays as impinge on the solid parts of Bodies are not reflected but stifled and lost in the Bodies. For otherwise we must allow two sorts of Reflexions. Should all the Rays be reflected which impinge on the internal parts of clear Water or Crystal, those Substances would rather have a cloudy Colour than a clear Transparency. To make Bodies look black, it's necessary that many Rays be stopp'd, retained, and lost in them; and it seems not probable that any Rays can be stopp'd and stifled in them which do not impinge on their parts.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 2, Part 3, Prop. VIII, 69.

Oh Diamond! Diamond! thou little knowest the mischief done! [Apocryphal]
— Sir Isaac Newton
Purportedly a rebuke to his pet dog, Diamond, which, in Newton's absence, upset a candle and set alight the papers recording much of Newton's work and 'destroyed the almost finished labours of some years'. The only source for this is Thomas Maude, in his poem, Wensley-Dale; or, Rural Contemplation (1780) written a half-century after Newton's death. According to D. Gjertsen, in The Newton Handbook (1986), 177, Maude's story must be regarded as baseless since no corroboration of such a dog's action exists in the writings of Newton's associates at the time.
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Our present work sets forth mathematical principles of philosophy. For the basic problem of philosophy seems to be to discover the forces of nature from the phenomena of motions and then to demonstrate the other phenomena from these forces. It is to these ends that the general propositions in books 1 and 2 are directed, while in book 3 our explanation of the system of the world illustrates these propositions.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Preface to the first edition, 382.
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Philosophy is such an impertinently litigious Lady that a man had as good be engaged in Law suits as have to do with her.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Edmond Halley (20 Jun 1686). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1676-1687 (1960), Vol. 2, 437.
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Seeing therefore the variety of Motion which we find in the World is always decreasing, there is a necessity of conserving and recruiting it by active Principles, such as are the cause of Gravity, by which Planets and Comets keep their Motions in their Orbs, and Bodies acquire great Motion in falling; and the cause of Fermentation, by which the Heart and Blood of Animals are kept in perpetual Motion and Heat; the inward Parts of the Earth are constantly warm'd, and in some places grow very hot; Bodies burn and shine, Mountains take fire, the Caverns of the Earth are blown up, and the Sun continues violently hot and lucid, and warms all things by his Light. For we meet with very little Motion in the World, besides what is owing to these active Principles.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 375.
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Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. Bentley met accidentally in London, and on Sir Isaac’s inquiring what philosophical pursuits were carrying on at Cambridge, the doctor replied—None—for when you go a hunting Sir Isaac, you kill all the game; you have left us nothing to pursue.—Not so, said the philosopher, you may start a variety of game in every bush if you will but take the trouble to beat for it.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Richard Watson, Chemical Essays (1786, 1806), Vol. 4, 257-258. No citation given, so—assuming it is more or less authentic—Webmaster offers this outright guess. Watson was the source of another anecdote about Newton (see “I find more sure marks…”). Thus, one might by pure speculation wonder if this quote was passed along in the same way. Was this another anecdote relayed to Watson by his former teacher, Dr. Robert Smith (Master of Trinity House), who might have been told this by Newton himself? Perhaps we’ll never know, but if you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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The best and safest way of philosophising seems to be, first to enquire diligently into the properties of things, and to establish those properties by experiences [experiments] and then to proceed slowly to hypotheses for the explanation of them. For hypotheses should be employed only in explaining the properties of things, but not assumed in determining them; unless so far as they may furnish experiments.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to the French Jesuit, Gaston Pardies. Translation from the original Latin, as in Richard S. Westfall, Never at Rest: a Biography of Isaac Newton‎ (1983), 242.
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The changing of Bodies into Light, and Light into Bodies, is very conformable to the Course of Nature, which seems delighted with Transmutations.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks, 2nd edition (1718), Book 3, Query 30, 349.
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The instinct of brutes and insects can be the effect of nothing else than the wisdom and skill of a powerful ever-living agent.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From 'Query 31', Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 379.
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The main Business of Natural Philosophy is to argue from Phænomena without feigning Hypotheses, and to deduce Causes from Effects till we come to the very first Cause, which certainly is not mechanical; and not only to unfold the Mechanism of the World, but chiefly to resolve these, and to such like Questions.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From 'Query 31', Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 344.
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The qualities of bodies, which admit neither intension nor remission of degrees, and which are found to belong to fill bodies within the reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Isaac Newton, Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy, Rule 3, as translated by Andrew Motte in The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1803), Vol. 2, 160.
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The Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discovered and established as Principles, and by them explaining the Phænomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From 'Query 31', Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 380-381.
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Therefore to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Isaac Newton, Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy, Rule 2, as translated by Andrew Motte in The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1803), Vol. 2, 160.
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Therefore, the causes assigned to natural effects of the same kind must be, so far as possible, the same.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Book 3, Rule. of Reasoning in Philosophy, Rule 2, 795.
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This Excellent Mathematician having given us, in the Transactions of February last, an account of the cause, which induced him to think upon Reflecting Telescopes, instead of Refracting ones, hath thereupon presented the curious world with an Essay of what may be performed by such Telescopes; by which it is found, that Telescopical Tubes may be considerably shortened without prejudice to their magnifiying effect.
On his invention of the catadioptrical telescope, as he communicated to the Royal Society.
— Sir Isaac Newton
'An Account of a New Catadioptrical Telescope Invented by Mr Newton', Philosophical Transactions (1672), 7, 4004.
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Those qualities of bodies that cannot be intended and remitted [i.e., qualities that cannot be increased and diminished] and that belong to all bodies on which experiments can be made should be taken as qualities of all bodies universally.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Book 3, Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy, Rule 3, 795.
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Thus far I have explained the phenomena of the heavens and of our sea by the force of gravity, but I have not yet assigned a cause to gravity. Indeed, this force arises from some cause that penetrates as far as the centers of the sun and planets without any diminution of its power to act, and that acts not in proportion to the quantity of the surfaces of the particles on which it acts (as mechanical causes are wont to do) but in proportion to the quantity of solid matter, and whose action is extended everywhere to immense distances, always decreasing as the squares of the distances.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), General Scholium, 943.
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Thus you may multiply each stone 4 times & no more for they will then become oyles shining in ye dark and fit for magicall uses. You may ferment them with ☉ [gold] and [silver], by keeping the stone and metal in fusion together for a day, & then project upon metalls. This is the multiplication of ye stone in vertue. To multiply it in weight ad to it of ye first Gold whether philosophic or vulgar.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Praxis (c.1693), quoted in Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs, The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy In Newton's Thought (1991), 304.
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To any action there is always an opposite and equal reaction; in other words, the actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal and always opposite in direction.
— Sir Isaac Newton
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Axioms, or Laws of Motion, Law 3, 417.
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To derive two or three general Principles of Motion from Phænomena, and afterwards to tell us how the Properties and Actions of all corporeal Things follow from those manifest Principles, would be a very great step in Philosophy.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From 'Query 31', Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 377.
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Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.
— Sir Isaac Newton
'Fragments from a Treatise on Revelation'. In Frank E. Manuel, The Religion of Isaac Newton (1974), 120.
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We are not to consider the world as the body of God: he is an uniform being, void of organs, members, or parts; and they are his creatures, subordinate to him, and subservient to his will.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From 'Query 31', Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 379.
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We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Isaac Newton, Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy, Rule 1, as translated by Andrew Motte in The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1803), Vol. 2, 160.
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What certainty can there be in a Philosophy which consists in as many Hypotheses as there are Phaenomena to be explained. To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one age. 'Tis much better to do a little with certainty, & leave the rest for others that come after you, than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of any thing.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Quoted in Richard S. Westfall, The Life of Isaac Newton (1994), 256.
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You ask me how, with so much study, I manage to retene my health. ... Morpheous is my last companion ; without 8 or 9 hours of him yr correspondent is not worth one scavenger's peruke. My practices did at ye first hurt my stomach, but now I eat heartily enou' as y’ will see when I come down beside you. [On the value of sleep, and harm of eating poorly while intent on study.]
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Dr. Law (15 Dec 1716) as quoted in Norman Lockyer, (ed.), Nature (25 May 1881), 24, 39. The source refers to it as an unpublished letter.
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You sometimes speak of gravity as essential and inherent to matter. Pray do not ascribe that notion to me, for the cause of gravity is what I do not pretend to know, and therefore would take more time to consider of it.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Dr. Bentley (17 Jan 1692). In Four Letters from Sir Isaac Newton to Doctor Bentley (1756), 20.
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[1.] And first I suppose that there is diffused through all places an aethereal substance capable of contraction & dilatation, strongly elastick, & in a word, much like air in all respects, but far more subtile.
2. I suppose this aether pervades all gross bodies, but yet so as to stand rarer in their pores then in free spaces, & so much ye rarer as their pores are less ...
3. I suppose ye rarer aether within bodies & ye denser without them, not to be terminated in a mathematical superficies, but to grow gradually into one another.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Robert Boyle (28 Feb 1678/9). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1676-1687 (1960), Vol. 2, 289.
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Quotes by others about Sir Isaac Newton (153)

The highest reach of science is, one may say, an inventive power, a faculty of divination, akin to the highest power exercised in poetry; therefore, a nation whose spirit is characterised by energy may well be eminent in science; and we have Newton. Shakspeare [sic] and Newton: in the intellectual sphere there can be no higher names. And what that energy, which is the life of genius, above everything demands and insists upon, is freedom; entire independence of all authority, prescription and routine, the fullest room to expand as it will.
'The Literary Influence of Acadennes' Essays in Criticism (1865), in R.H. Super (ed.) The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold: Lectures and Essays in Criticism (1962), Vol. 3, 238.
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A number of years ago, when I was a freshly-appointed instructor, I met, for the first time, a certain eminent historian of science. At the time I could only regard him with tolerant condescension.
I was sorry of the man who, it seemed to me, was forced to hover about the edges of science. He was compelled to shiver endlessly in the outskirts, getting only feeble warmth from the distant sun of science- in-progress; while I, just beginning my research, was bathed in the heady liquid heat up at the very center of the glow.
In a lifetime of being wrong at many a point, I was never more wrong. It was I, not he, who was wandering in the periphery. It was he, not I, who lived in the blaze.
I had fallen victim to the fallacy of the “growing edge;” the belief that only the very frontier of scientific advance counted; that everything that had been left behind by that advance was faded and dead.
But is that true? Because a tree in spring buds and comes greenly into leaf, are those leaves therefore the tree? If the newborn twigs and their leaves were all that existed, they would form a vague halo of green suspended in mid-air, but surely that is not the tree. The leaves, by themselves, are no more than trivial fluttering decoration. It is the trunk and limbs that give the tree its grandeur and the leaves themselves their meaning.
There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. “If I have seen further than other men,” said Isaac Newton, “it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
Adding A Dimension: Seventeen Essays on the History of Science (1964), Introduction.
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And make us as Newton was, who in his garden watching
The apple falling towards England, became aware
Between himself and her of an eternal tie.
'Prologue' in Look Stranger! (1936), 11.
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Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau!
Mock on, mock on: 'Tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel's paths they shine.
The atoms of Democritus
And Newton's particles of light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.
Notebook Drafts (c. 1804). In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 481.
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I turn my eyes to the schools & universities of Europe
And there behold the loom of Locke whose woof rages dire,
Washed by the water-wheels of Newton. Black the cloth
In heavy wreaths folds over every nation; cruel works
Of many wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden, which
Wheel within wheel in freedom revolve, in harmony & peace.
'Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion' (1804-20), First Chapter, Pl.15, lines 14-20. In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 654-55.
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May God us keep
From Single vision & Newton’s sleep!
Letter to Thomas Butt (22 Nov 1802). Collected in William Blake and Archibald George Blomefield Russell (ed.), The Letters of William Blake (1906), Vol. 1, 112.
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In science, address the few; in literature, the many. In science, the few must dictate opinion to the many; in literature, the many, sooner or later, force their judgement on the few. But the few and the many are not necessarily the few and the many of the passing time: for discoverers in science have not un-often, in their own day, had the few against them; and writers the most permanently popular not unfrequently found, in their own day, a frigid reception from the many. By the few, I mean those who must ever remain the few, from whose dieta we, the multitude, take fame upon trust; by the many, I mean those who constitute the multitude in the long-run. We take the fame of a Harvey or a Newton upon trust, from the verdict of the few in successive generations; but the few could never persuade us to take poets and novelists on trust. We, the many, judge for ourselves of Shakespeare and Cervantes.
Caxtoniana: A Series of Essays on Life, Literature, and Manners (1863), Vol. 2, 329- 30.
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When Newton saw an apple fall, he found
In that slight startle from his contemplation—
'Tis said (for I'll not answer above ground
For any sage's creed or calculation)—
A mode of proving that the earth turn'd round
In a most natural whirl, called 'gravitation';
And this is the sole mortal who could grapple,
Since Adam, with a fall, or with an apple.
Don Juan (1821), Canto 10, Verse I. In Jerome J. McGann (ed.), Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works (1986), Vol. 5, 437.
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Science would not be what it is if there had not been a Galileo, a Newton or a Lavoisier, any more than music would be what it is if Bach, Beethoven and Wagner had never lived. The world as we know it is the product of its geniuses—and there may be evil as well as beneficent genius—and to deny that fact, is to stultify all history, whether it be that of the intellectual or the economic world.
What is Science? (1921), 73.
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In science, attempts at formulating hierarchies are always doomed to eventual failure. A Newton will always be followed by an Einstein, a Stahl by a Lavoisier; and who can say who will come after us? What the human mind has fabricated must be subject to all the changes—which are not progress—that the human mind must undergo. The 'last words' of the sciences are often replaced, more often forgotten. Science is a relentlessly dialectical process, though it suffers continuously under the necessary relativation of equally indispensable absolutes. It is, however, possible that the ever-growing intellectual and moral pollution of our scientific atmosphere will bring this process to a standstill. The immense library of ancient Alexandria was both symptom and cause of the ossification of the Greek intellect. Even now I know of some who feel that we know too much about the wrong things.
Voices in the Labyrinth: Nature, Man, and Science (1979), 46.
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All revolutionary advances in science may consist less of sudden and dramatic revelations than a series of transformations, of which the revolutionary significance may not be seen (except afterwards, by historians) until the last great step. In many cases the full potentiality and force of a most radical step in such a sequence of transformations may not even be manifest to its author.
The Newtonian Revolution (1980), 162.
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My Opinion is this—that deep Thinking is attainable only by a man of deep Feeling, and that all Truth is a species of Revelation. The more I understand of Sir Isaac Newton's works, the more boldly I dare utter to my own mind ... that I believe the Souls of 500 Sir Isaac Newtons would go to the making up of a Shakspere [sic] or a Milton... Mind in his system is always passive—a lazy Looker-on on an external World. If the mind be not passive, if it be indeed made in God's Image, & that too in the sublimest sense—the image of the Creator—there is ground for suspicion, that any system built on the passiveness of the mind must be false, as a system.
Letter to Thomas Poole, 23 March 1801. In Earl Leslie Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1956), Vol. 2, 709.
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All Science is necessarily prophetic, so truly so, that the power of prophecy is the test, the infallible criterion, by which any presumed Science is ascertained to be actually & verily science. The Ptolemaic Astronomy was barely able to prognosticate a lunar eclipse; with Kepler and Newton came Science and Prophecy.
On the Constitution of the Church and State (1830). In The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1976), John Cohner (ed.), Vol. 10, 118, footnote 1 on Coleridge's annotation.
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The sublime discoveries of Newton, and, together with these, his not less fruitful than wonderful application, of the higher mathesis to the movement of the celestial bodies, and to the laws of light, gave almost religious sanction to the corpuscular system and mechanical theory. It became synonymous with philosophy itself. It was the sole portal at which truth was permitted to enter. The human body was treated an hydraulic machine... In short, from the time of Kepler to that of Newton, and from Newton to Hartley, not only all things in external nature, but the subtlest mysteries of life, organization, and even of the intellect and moral being, were conjured within the magic circle of mathematical formulae.
Hints Towards the Formation of a more Comprehensive Theory of Life (1848). In The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Shorter Works and Fragments (1995), H. J. Jackson and J. R. de J. Jackson (eds.), Vol. 11, 1, 498.
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The scientist who recognizes God knows only the God of Newton. To him the God imagined by Laplace and Comte is wholly inadequate. He feels that God is in nature, that the orderly ways in which nature works are themselves the manifestations of God's will and purpose. Its laws are his orderly way of working.
The Human Meaning of Science (1940), 69.
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[All phenomena] are equally susceptible of being calculated, and all that is necessary, to reduce the whole of nature to laws similar to those which Newton discovered with the aid of the calculus, is to have a sufficient number of observations and a mathematics that is complex enough.
Unpublished Manuscript. Quoted In Frank Edward Manuel and Fritzie Prigohzy Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (1979, 2009), 493.
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Newton supposed that the case of the planet was similar to that of [a ball spun around on the end of an elastic string]; that it was always pulled in the direction of the sun, and that this attraction or pulling of the sun produced the revolution of the planet, in the same way that the traction or pulling of the elastic string produces the revolution of the ball. What there is between the sun and the planet that makes each of them pull the other, Newton did not know; nobody knows to this day; and all we are now able to assert positively is that the known motion of the planet is precisely what would be produced if it were fastened to the sun by an elastic string, having a certain law of elasticity. Now observe the nature of this discovery, the greatest in its consequences that has ever yet been made in physical science:—
I. It begins with an hypothesis, by supposing that there is an analogy between the motion of a planet and the motion of a ball at the end of a string.
II. Science becomes independent of the hypothesis, for we merely use it to investigate the properties of the motion, and do not trouble ourselves further about the cause of it.
'On Some of the Conditions of Mental Development,' a discourse delivered at the Royal Institution, 6 Mar 1868, in Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays, by the Late William Kingdon Clifford (1886), 56.
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What a scale of improvement is comprehended between the faculties of a Fuegian savage and a Sir Isaac Newton.
R. D. Keynes, Darwin's Beagle Diary (1988), 223.
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The mechanization of the world picture.
The Mechanization of the World Picture, trans. C. Dikshoorn (1961), 39.
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Religious creeds are a great obstacle to any full sympathy between the outlook of the scientist and the outlook which religion is so often supposed to require … The spirit of seeking which animates us refuses to regard any kind of creed as its goal. It would be a shock to come across a university where it was the practice of the students to recite adherence to Newton's laws of motion, to Maxwell's equations and to the electromagnetic theory of light. We should not deplore it the less if our own pet theory happened to be included, or if the list were brought up to date every few years. We should say that the students cannot possibly realise the intention of scientific training if they are taught to look on these results as things to be recited and subscribed to. Science may fall short of its ideal, and although the peril scarcely takes this extreme form, it is not always easy, particularly in popular science, to maintain our stand against creed and dogma.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929), Science and the Unseen World (1929), 54-56.
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[The tools that Newton gave us] entered the marrow of what we know without knowing how we know it.
From Isaac Newton (2003), 188.
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There have been only three epoch-making mathematicians, Archimedes, Newton, and Eisenstein.
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Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is because I've stood on the shoulders of giants.” These days we stand on each other's feet!
'You and Your Research', Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar, 7 Mar 1986.
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This change in the conception of reality is the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.
Refering to James Clerk Maxwell's contributions to physics.
'Maxwell's Influence on the Development of the Conception of Physical Reality', James Clerk Maxwell: A Commemorative Volume 1831-1931 (1931), 71.
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The cases of action at a distance are becoming, in a physical point of view, daily more and more important. Sound, light, electricity, magnetism, gravitation, present them as a series.
The nature of sound and its dependence on a medium we think we understand, pretty well. The nature of light as dependent on a medium is now very largely accepted. The presence of a medium in the phenomena of electricity and magnetism becomes more and more probable daily. We employ ourselves, and I think rightly, in endeavouring to elucidate the physical exercise of these forces, or their sets of antecedents and consequents, and surely no one can find fault with the labours which eminent men have entered upon in respect of light, or into which they may enter as regards electricity and magnetism. Then what is there about gravitation that should exclude it from consideration also? Newton did not shut out the physical view, but had evidently thought deeply of it; and if he thought of it, why should not we, in these advanced days, do so too?
Letter to E. Jones, 9 Jun 1857. In Michael Faraday, Bence Jones (ed.), The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), Vol. 2, 387.
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Isaacus Newtonus:
Quem Immortalem
Testantur Tempus, Natura, Coelum:
Hoc Marmor fatetur.

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in Night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.
Epitaph, XII, Intended for Sir Isaac Newton, in Westminster-Abbey. The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq (1797), Vol. 2., 403.

From one sublime genius—NEWTON—more light has proceeded than the labour of a thousand years preceding had been able to produce.
Familiar Letters on Chemistry (1851), 3.
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During the century after Newton, it was still possible for a man of unusual attainments to master all fields of scientific knowledge. But by 1800, this had become entirely impracticable.
The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (1960), 19.
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You must not talk about 'ain't and can't' when you speak of this great wonderful world round you, of which the wisest man knows only the very smallest corner, and is, as the great Sir Isaac Newton said, only a child picking up pebbles on the shore of a boundless ocean.
The Water-babies (1886), 80.
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Attention makes the genius; all learning, fancy, and science depend on it. Newton traced back his discoveries to its unwearied employment. It builds bridges, opens new worlds, and heals diseases; without it Taste is useless, and the beauties of literature are unobserved; as the rarest flowers bloom in vain, if the eye be not fixed upon the bed.
Pleasures, Objects, and Advantages of Literature (1855), 37.
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Newton found that a star, examined through a glass tarnished by smoke, was diminished into a speck of light. But no smoke ever breathed so thick a mist as envy or detraction.
Pleasures, Objects, and Advantages of Literature (1855), 67.
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The history of men of science has one peculiar advantage, as it shows the importance of little things in producing great results. Smeaton learned his principle of constructing a lighthouse, by noticing the trunk of a tree to be diminished from a curve to a cyclinder ... and Newton, turning an old box into a water-clock, or the yard of a house into a sundial, are examples of those habits of patient observation which scientific biography attractively recommends.
Pleasures, Objects, and Advantages of Literature (1855), 129.
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...learning chiefly in mathematical sciences can so swallow up and fix one's thought, as to possess it entirely for some time; but when that amusement is over, nature will return, and be where it was, being rather diverted than overcome by such speculations.
An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England (1850), 154
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It is a vulgar belief that our astronomical knowledge dates only from the recent century when it was rescued from the monks who imprisoned Galileo; but Hipparchus … who among other achievements discovered the precession of the eqinoxes, ranks with the Newtons and the Keplers; and Copernicus, the modern father of our celestial science, avows himself, in his famous work, as only the champion of Pythagoras, whose system he enforces and illustrates. Even the most modish schemes of the day on the origin of things, which captivate as much by their novelty as their truth, may find their precursors in ancient sages, and after a careful analysis of the blended elements of imagination and induction which charaterise the new theories, they will be found mainly to rest on the atom of Epicurus and the monad of Thales. Scientific, like spiritual truth, has ever from the beginning been descending from heaven to man.
Lothair (1879), preface, xvii.
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I believe in logic, the sequence of cause and effect, and in science its only begotten son our law, which was conceived by the ancient Greeks, thrived under Isaac Newton, suffered under Albert Einstein…
That fragment of a 'creed for materialism' which a friend in college had once shown him rose through Donald's confused mind.
Stand on Zanzibar (1969)
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As three laws were good enough for Newton, I have modestly decided to stop there.
Commenting on Clarke's own three laws.
Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), footnote, 21.
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Newton's health, and confusion to mathematics.
28 Dec 1817, in Tom Taylor (ed.), The Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), intro. Aldous Huxley (1926), Vol. 1, 269.

I'm not smart. I try to observe. Millions saw the apple fall but Newton was the one who asked 'why.'
Quoted in New York Post (24 Jun 1965). In Alfred J. Kolatch, Great Jewish Quotations (1996), 38-39.
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What a deep faith in the rationality of the structure of the world and what a longing to understand even a small glimpse of the reason revealed in the world there must have been in Kepler and Newton to enable them to unravel the mechanism of the heavens in long years of lonely work!
'Religion and Science', The New York Times (9 Nov 1930), Sunday Magazine, 1.
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While Newton seemed to draw off the veil from some of the mysteries of nature, he showed at the same time the imperfections of the mechanical philosophy; and thereby restored her ultimate secrets to that obscurity, in which they ever did and ever will remain.
The History Of Great Britain, Containing the Commonwealth and the Reigns of Charles II. and James II. (2nd ed. 1759), Vol. 2, 450.
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A million million spermatozoa,
All of them alive:
Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah
Dare hope to survive.
And among that billion minus one
Might have chanced to be Shakespeare, another Newton, a new Donne—
But the One was Me.
'Fifth Philosopher's Song', Leda (1920),33.
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The strangest thing of all is that our ulama these days have divided science into two parts. One they call Muslim science, and one European science. Because of this they forbid others to teach some of the useful sciences. They have not understood that science is that noble thing that has no connection with any nation, and is not distinguished by anything but itself. Rather, everything that is known is known by science, and every nation that becomes renowned becomes renowned through science. Men must be related to science, not science to men. How very strange it is that the Muslims study those sciences that are ascribed to Aristotle with the greatest delight, as if Aristotle were one of the pillars of the Muslims. However, if the discussion relates to Galileo, Newton, and Kepler, they consider them infidels. The father and mother of science is proof, and proof is neither Aristotle nor Galileo. The truth is where there is proof, and those who forbid science and knowledge in the belief that they are safeguarding the Islamic religion are really the enemies of that religion. Lecture on Teaching and Learning (1882).
In Nikki R. Keddie, An Islamic Response to Imperialism (1983), 107.
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Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind which looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago. Isaac Newton, a posthumous child born with no father on Christmas Day, 1642, was the last wonder child to whom the Magi could do sincere and appropriate homage.
In 'Newton, the Man' (1946). In Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), Essays in Biography, 2nd edition (1951), 311.
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The stone that Dr. Johnson once kicked to demonstrate the reality of matter has become dissipated in a diffuse distribution of mathematical probabilities. The ladder that Descartes, Galileo, Newton, and Leibniz erected in order to scale the heavens rests upon a continually shifting, unstable foundation.
Mathematics in Western Culture (1953), 382.
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It is possible that the deepest meaning and aim of Newtonianism, or rather, of the whole scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, of which Newton is the heir and the highest expression, is just to abolish the world of the 'more or less', the world of qualities and sense perception, the world of appreciation of our daily life, and to replace it by the (Archimedean) universe of precision, of exact measures, of strict determination ... This revolution [is] one of the deepest, if not the deepest, mutations and transformations accomplished—or suffered—by the human mind since the invention of the cosmos by the Greeks, two thousand years before.
'The Significance of the Newtonian Synthesis' (1950). In Newtonian Studies (1965), 4-5.
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Scientific development depends in part on a process of non-incremental or revolutionary change. Some revolutions are large, like those associated with the names of Copernicus, Newton, or Darwin, but most are much smaller, like the discovery of oxygen or the planet Uranus. The usual prelude to changes of this sort is, I believed, the awareness of anomaly, of an occurrence or set of occurrences that does not fit existing ways of ordering phenomena. The changes that result therefore require 'putting on a different kind of thinking-cap', one that renders the anomalous lawlike but that, in the process, also transforms the order exhibited by some other phenomena, previously unproblematic.
The Essential Tension (1977), xvii.
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Break the chains of your prejudices and take up the torch of experience, and you will honour nature in the way she deserves, instead of drawing derogatory conclusions from the ignorance in which she has left you. Simply open your eyes and ignore what you cannot understand, and you will see that a labourer whose mind and knowledge extend no further than the edges of his furrow is no different essentially from the greatest genius, as would have been proved by dissecting the brains of Descartes and Newton; you will be convinced that the imbecile or the idiot are animals in human form, in the same way as the clever ape is a little man in another form; and that, since everything depends absolutely on differences in organisation, a well-constructed animal who has learnt astronomy can predict an eclipse, as he can predict recovery or death when his genius and good eyesight have benefited from some time at the school of Hippocrates and at patients' bedsides.
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 38.
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Fractal is a word invented by Mandelbrot to bring together under one heading a large class of objects that have [played] ... an historical role ... in the development of pure mathematics. A great revolution of ideas separates the classical mathematics of the 19th century from the modern mathematics of the 20th. Classical mathematics had its roots in the regular geometric structures of Euclid and the continuously evolving dynamics of Newton.? Modern mathematics began with Cantor's set theory and Peano's space-filling curve. Historically, the revolution was forced by the discovery of mathematical structures that did not fit the patterns of Euclid and Newton. These new structures were regarded ... as 'pathological,' ... as a 'gallery of monsters,' akin to the cubist paintings and atonal music that were upsetting established standards of taste in the arts at about the same time. The mathematicians who created the monsters regarded them as important in showing that the world of pure mathematics contains a richness of possibilities going far beyond the simple structures that they saw in Nature. Twentieth-century mathematics flowered in the belief that it had transcended completely the limitations imposed by its natural origins.
Now, as Mandelbrot points out, ... Nature has played a joke on the mathematicians. The 19th-century mathematicians may not have been lacking in imagination, but Nature was not. The same pathological structures that the mathematicians invented to break loose from 19th-century naturalism turn out to be inherent in familiar objects all around us.
From 'Characterizing Irregularity', Science (12 May 1978), 200, No. 4342, 677-678. Quoted in Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), 3-4.
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[P]olitical and social and scientific values … should be correlated in some relation of movement that could be expressed in mathematics, nor did one care in the least that all the world said it could not be done, or that one knew not enough mathematics even to figure a formula beyond the schoolboy s=(1/2)gt2. If Kepler and Newton could take liberties with the sun and moon, an obscure person ... could take liberties with Congress, and venture to multiply its attraction into the square of its time. He had only to find a value, even infinitesimal, for its attraction.
The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography? (1918), 376.
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Laplace would have found it child's-play to fix a ratio of progression in mathematical science between Descartes, Leibnitz, Newton and himself
The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography? (1918), 491.
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[Newton wrote to Halley … that he would not give Hooke any credit] That, alas, is vanity. You find it in so many scientists. You know, it has always hurt me to think that Galileo did not acknowledge the work of Kepler.
In I. Bernard Cohen, 'An Interview with Einstein', in Anthony Philip French (ed.), Einstein: A Centenary Volume (1979), 41. Cited in Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way (2003), 94-95.
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What Galileo and Newton were to the seventeenth century, Darwin was to the nineteenth.
A History of Western Philosophy (1945), 725.
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I esteem his understanding and subtlety highly, but I consider that they have been put to ill use in the greater part of his work, where the author studies things of little use or when he builds on the improbable principle of attraction.
Writing about Newton's Principia. Huygens had some time earlier indicated he did not believe the theory of universal gravitation, saying it 'appears to me absurd.'
Quoted in Archana Srinivasan, Great Inventors (2007), 37.
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… for it is very probable, that the motion of gravity worketh weakly, both far from the earth, and also within the earth: the former because the appetite of union of dense bodies with the earth, in respect of the distance, is more dull: the latter, because the body hath in part attained its nature when it is some depth in the earth.
[Foreshadowing Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation (1687)]
Sylva Sylvarum; or a Natural History in Ten Centuries (1627), Century 1, Experiment 33. Collected in The Works of Francis Bacon (1826), Vol 1, 255.
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According to their [Newton and his followers] doctrine, God Almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. Nay, the machine of God's making, so imperfect, according to these gentlemen; that he is obliged to clean it now and then by an extraordinary concourse, and even to mend it, as clockmaker mends his work.
'Mr. Leibniz's First Paper' (1715). In H. G. Alexander (ed.), The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (1956), 11-2.
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Anthropology found its Galileo in Rivers, its Newton in Mauss.
Structural Anthropology (1958), 159.
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It is strongly suspected that a NEWTON or SHAKESPEARE excels other mortals only by a more ample development of the anterior cerebral lobes, by having an extra inch of brain in the right place.
Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man (1819), 110.
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I have no patience with attempts to identify science with measurement, which is but one of its tools, or with any definition of the scientist which would exclude a Darwin, a Pasteur or a Kekulé. The scientist is a practical man and his are practical aims. He does not seek the ultimate but the proximate. He does not speak of the last analysis but rather of the next approximation. His are not those beautiful structures so delicately designed that a single flaw may cause the collapse of the whole. The scientist builds slowly and with a gross but solid kind of masonry. If dissatisfied with any of his work, even if it be near the very foundations, he can replace that part without damage to the remainder. On the whole, he is satisfied with his work, for while science may never be wholly right it certainly is never wholly wrong; and it seems to be improving from decade to decade.
The Anatomy of Science (1926), 6-7.
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The Commonwealth of Learning is not at this time without Master-Builders, whose mighty Designs, in advancing the Sciences, will leave lasting Monuments to the Admiration of Posterity; But every one must not hope to be a Boyle, or a Sydenham; and in an Age that produces such Masters, as the Great-Huygenius, and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with some other of that Strain; 'tis Ambition enough to be employed as an Under-Labourer in clearing Ground a little, and removing some of the Rubbish, that lies in the way to Knowledge.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), The Epistle to the Reader, 9-10.
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NEWTONIAN, adj. Pertaining to a philosophy of the universe, invented by Newton, who discovered that an apple will fall to the ground, but was unable to say why. His successors and disciples have advanced so far as to be able to say when.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  228.
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Always preoccupied with his profound researches, the great Newton showed in the ordinary-affairs of life an absence of mind which has become proverbial. It is related that one day, wishing to find the number of seconds necessary for the boiling of an egg, he perceived, after waiting a minute, that he held the egg in his hand, and had placed his seconds watch (an instrument of great value on account of its mathematical precision) to boil!
This absence of mind reminds one of the mathematician Ampere, who one day, as he was going to his course of lectures, noticed a little pebble on the road; he picked it up, and examined with admiration the mottled veins. All at once the lecture which he ought to be attending to returned to his mind; he drew out his watch; perceiving that the hour approached, he hastily doubled his pace, carefully placed the pebble in his pocket, and threw his watch over the parapet of the Pont des Arts.
Popular Astronomy: a General Description of the Heavens (1884), translated by J. Ellard Gore, (1907), 93.
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Throughout his life Newton must have devoted at least as much attention to chemistry and theology as to mathematics. …
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 335.
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Newton took no exercise, indulged in no amusements, and worked incessantly, often spending eighteen or nineteen hours out of the twenty-four in writing.
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 358.
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For other great mathematicians or philosophers, he [Gauss] used the epithets magnus, or clarus, or clarissimus; for Newton alone he kept the prefix summus.
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 362.
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Foreshadowings of the principles and even of the language of [the infinitesimal] calculus can be found in the writings of Napier, Kepler, Cavalieri, Pascal, Fermat, Wallis, and Barrow. It was Newton's good luck to come at a time when everything was ripe for the discovery, and his ability enabled him to construct almost at once a complete calculus.
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 366.
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The analytical geometry of Descartes and the calculus of Newton and Leibniz have expanded into the marvelous mathematical method—more daring than anything that the history of philosophy records—of Lobachevsky and Riemann, Gauss and Sylvester. Indeed, mathematics, the indispensable tool of the sciences, defying the senses to follow its splendid flights, is demonstrating today, as it never has been demonstrated before, the supremacy of the pure reason.
'What Knowledge is of Most Worth?', Presidential address to the National Education Association, Denver, Colorado (9 Jul 1895). In Educational Review (Sep 1895), 10, 109.
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We hold these truths to be self-evident.
Franklin's edit to the assertion of religion in Thomas Jefferson's original wording, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” in a draft of the Declaration of Independence changes it instead into an assertion of rationality. The scientific mind of Franklin drew on the scientific determinism of Isaac Newton and the analytic empiricism of David Hume and Gottfried Leibniz. In what became known as “Hume's Fork” the latters' theory distinguished between synthetic truths that describe matters of fact, and analytic truths that are self-evident by virtue of reason and definition.
As explained by Walter Isaacson in Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2004), 312.
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I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can.
Letter to Asa Gray (22 May 1860). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 236.
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Descartes constructed as noble a road of science, from the point at which he found geometry to that to which he carried it, as Newton himself did after him. ... He carried this spirit of geometry and invention into optics, which under him became a completely new art.
A Philosophical Dictionary: from the French? (2nd Ed.,1824), Vol. 5, 110.
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It is not therefore the business of philosophy, in our present situation in the universe, to attempt to take in at once, in one view, the whole scheme of nature; but to extend, with great care and circumspection, our knowledge, by just steps, from sensible things, as far as our observations or reasonings from them will carry us, in our enquiries concerning either the greater motions and operations of nature, or her more subtile and hidden works. In this way Sir Isaac Newton proceeded in his discoveries.
An Account of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophical Discoveries, in Four Books (1748), 19.
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Very few of us can now place ourselves in the mental condition in which even such philosophers as the great Descartes were involved in the days before Newton had announced the true laws of the motion of bodies.
'Introductory Lecture on Experimental Physics', 1871. In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 241.
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The generalized theory of relativity has furnished still more remarkable results. This considers not only uniform but also accelerated motion. In particular, it is based on the impossibility of distinguishing an acceleration from the gravitation or other force which produces it. Three consequences of the theory may be mentioned of which two have been confirmed while the third is still on trial: (1) It gives a correct explanation of the residual motion of forty-three seconds of arc per century of the perihelion of Mercury. (2) It predicts the deviation which a ray of light from a star should experience on passing near a large gravitating body, the sun, namely, 1".7. On Newton's corpuscular theory this should be only half as great. As a result of the measurements of the photographs of the eclipse of 1921 the number found was much nearer to the prediction of Einstein, and was inversely proportional to the distance from the center of the sun, in further confirmation of the theory. (3) The theory predicts a displacement of the solar spectral lines, and it seems that this prediction is also verified.
Studies in Optics (1927), 160-1.
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In the year 1666 he retired again from Cambridge... to his mother in Lincolnshire & whilst he was musing in a garden it came into his thought that the power of gravity (wch brought an apple from the tree to the ground) was not limited to a certain distance from the earth but that this power must extend much farther than was usually thought. Why not as high as the moon said he to himself & if so that must influence her motion & perhaps retain her in her orbit, whereupon he fell a calculating what would be the effect of that supposition but being absent from books & taking the common estimate in use among Geographers & our seamen before Norwood had measured the earth, that 60 English miles were contained in one degree of latitude on the surface of the Earth his computation did not agree with his theory & inclined him then to entertain a notion that together with the force of gravity there might be a mixture of that force wch the moon would have if it was carried along in a vortex.
[The earliest account of Newton, gravity and an apple.]
Memorandum of a conversation with Newton in August 1726. Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 154.
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In 1684 Dr Halley came to visit him at Cambridge, after they had been some time together, the Dr asked him what he thought the Curve would be that would be described by the Planets supposing the force of attraction towards the Sun to be reciprocal to the square of their distance from it. Sr Isaac replied immediately that it would be an Ellipsis, the Doctor struck with joy & amazement asked him how he knew it, why saith he I have calculated it, whereupon Dr Halley asked him for his calculation without any farther delay. Sr Isaac looked among his papers but could not find it, but he promised him to renew it, & then to send it him.
[Recollecting Newton's account of the meeting after which Halley prompted Newton to write The Principia. When asking Newton this question, Halley was aware, without revealing it to Newton that Robert Hooke had made this hypothesis of plantary motion a decade earlier.]
Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 403.
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And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.
'Residence at Cambridge', The Prelude, or, Growth of a Poet's Mind: An Autobiographical Poem (1850), Book 3, 57-58.
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Thus died Negro Tom [Thomas Fuller], this untaught arithmetician, this untutored scholar. Had his opportunities of improvement been equal to those of thousands of his fellow-men, neither the Royal Society of London, the Academy of Science at Paris, nor even a Newton himself need have been ashamed to acknowledge him a brother in science.
[Thomas Fuller (1710-1790), although enslaved from Africa at age 14, was an arithmetical prodigy. He was known as the Virginia Calculator because of his exceptional ability with arithmetic calculations. His intellectual accomplishments were related by Dr. Benjamin Rush in a letter read to the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.]
From obituary in the Boston Columbian Centinal (29 Dec 1790), 14, No. 31. In George Washington Williams, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880 (1882), Vol. 1, 400
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As he sat alone in a garden, he [Isaac Newton in 1666, age 24] fell into a speculation on the power of gravity; that as this power is not found sensibly diminished at the remotest distance from the centre of the earth to which we can rise, neither at the tops of the loftiest buildings, nor even on the summits of the highest mountains, it appeared to him reasonable to conclude that this power must extend much further than was usually thought: why not as high as the moon? said he to himself; and if so, her motion must be influenced by it; perhaps she is retained in her orbit thereby.
View of Newton's Philosophy (1728), preface. In William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (1847), Vol. 2, 166. Pemberton's narrative is based on firsthand conversations with Newton himself.
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To use Newton’s words, our efforts up till this moment have but turned over a pebble or shell here and there on the beach, with only a forlorn hope that under one of them was the gem we were seeking. Now we have the sieve, the minds, the hands, the time, and, particularly, the dedication to find those gems—no matter in which favorite hiding place the children of distant worlds have placed them.
[Co-author with Dava Sobel.]
In Frank Drake and Dava Sobel, Is Anyone Out There? (1993), 236.
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No one can read the history of astronomy without perceiving that Copernicus, Newton, Laplace, are not new men, or a new kind of men, but that Thales, Anaximenes, Hipparchus, Empodocles, Aristorchus, Pythagorus, Oenipodes, had anticipated them.
In The Conduct of Life (1904), 18.
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That small word “Force,” they make a barber's block,
Ready to put on
Meanings most strange and various, fit to shock
Pupils of Newton....
The phrases of last century in this
Linger to play tricks—
Vis viva and Vis Mortua and Vis Acceleratrix:
Those long-nebbed words that to our text books still
Cling by their titles,
And from them creep, as entozoa will,
Into our vitals.
But see! Tait writes in lucid symbols clear
One small equation;
And Force becomes of Energy a mere
'Report on Tait's Lecture on Force:— B.A., 1876', reproduced in Bruce Clarke, Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (2001), 19. Maxwell's verse was inspired by a paper delivered at the British Association (B.A.. He was satirizing a “considerable cofusion of nomenclature” at the time, and supported his friend Tait's desire to establish a redefinition of energy on a thermnodynamic basis.
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Force, then, is Force, but mark you! Not a thing,
Only a Vector;
Thy barbèd arrows now have lost their sting,
Impotent spectre!
Thy reign, O force! is over. Now no more
Heed we thine action;
Repulsion leaves us where we were before,
So does attraction.
Both Action and Reaction now are gone.
Just ere they vanished,
Stress joined their hands in peace, and made them one;
Then they were banished....
Reproduced in Bruce Clarke, Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (2001), 20-21. In his parody of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, Maxwell presents Newton's laws of motion updated into axioms of energy.
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Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
... Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal Man unfold all Nature's law,
Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And shew'd a NEWTON as we shew an Ape.
'An Essay on Man' (1733-4), Epistle II. In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 516-7.
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Mainstream biology may be suffering from what I call 'Physics envy' in aiming to reduce life to nothing but well known, typically Newtonian principles of physics and chemistry.
'From the Editor's Desk', Frontier Perspectives (1991), 2, 3.
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It is good to recall that three centuries ago, around the year 1660, two of the greatest monuments of modern history were erected, one in the West and one in the East; St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Taj Mahal in Agra. Between them, the two symbolize, perhaps better than words can describe, the comparative level of architectural technology, the comparative level of craftsmanship and the comparative level of affluence and sophistication the two cultures had attained at that epoch of history. But about the same time there was also created—and this time only in the West—a third monument, a monument still greater in its eventual import for humanity. This was Newton’s Principia, published in 1687. Newton's work had no counterpart in the India of the Mughuls.
'Ideals and Realities' (1975). Reprinted in Ideals and Realities (1984), 48.
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The pre-Darwinian age had come to be regarded as a Dark Age in which men still believed that the book of Genesis was a standard scientific treatise, and that the only additions to it were Galileo's demonstration of Leonardo da Vinci’s simple remark that the earth is a moon of the sun, Newton’s theory of gravitation, Sir Humphry Davy's invention of the safety-lamp, the discovery of electricity, the application of steam to industrial purposes, and the penny post.
Back to Methuselah: a Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), viii.
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For FRICTION is inevitable because the Universe is FULL of God's works.
For the PERPETUAL MOTION is in all works of Almighty GOD.
For it is not so in the engines of man, which are made of dead materials, neither indeed can be.
For the Moment of bodies, as it is used, is a false term—bless God ye Speakers on the Fifth of November.
For Time and Weight are by their several estimates.
For I bless GOD in the discovery of the LONGITUDE direct by the means of GLADWICK.
For the motion of the PENDULUM is the longest in that it parries resistance.
For the WEDDING GARMENTS of all men are prepared in the SUN against the day of acceptation.
For the wedding Garments of all women are prepared in the MOON against the day of their purification.
For CHASTITY is the key of knowledge as in Esdras, Sir Isaac Newton & now, God be praised, in me.
For Newton nevertheless is more of error than of the truth, but I am of the WORD of GOD.
From 'Jubilate Agno' (c.1758-1763), in N. Callan (ed.), The Collected Poems of Christopher Smart (1949), Vol. 1, 276.
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Isaac Newton was born at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham, in Lincolnshire, on Christmas Day, 1642: a weakly and diminutive infant, of whom it is related that, at his birth, he might have found room in a quart mug. He died on March the 20th, 1727, after more than eighty-four years of more than average bodily health and vigour; it is a proper pendant to the story of the quart mug to state that he never lost more than one of his second teeth.
In Essays on the life and work of Newton (), 4.
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Facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome.
'Evolution as Fact and Theory', in Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1983, 1994), Chap. 19.
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One day at Fenner's (the university cricket ground at Cambridge), just before the last war, G. H. Hardy and I were talking about Einstein. Hardy had met him several times, and I had recently returned from visiting him. Hardy was saying that in his lifetime there had only been two men in the world, in all the fields of human achievement, science, literature, politics, anything you like, who qualified for the Bradman class. For those not familiar with cricket, or with Hardy's personal idiom, I ought to mention that “the Bradman class” denoted the highest kind of excellence: it would include Shakespeare, Tolstoi, Newton, Archimedes, and maybe a dozen others. Well, said Hardy, there had only been two additions in his lifetime. One was Lenin and the other Einstein.
Variety of Men (1966), 87.
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It did not last: the Devil howling 'Ho, Let Einstein be,' restored the status quo.
[Refer to earlier lines by Alexander Pope on Isaac Newton]
'In Continuation of Pope on Newton', in J. C. Squire, Poems in One Volume (1926), 218.
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Bernard: Oh, you’re going to zap me with penicillin and pesticides. Spare me that and I’ll spare you the bomb and aerosols. But don’t confuse progress with perfectibility. A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need. There’s no rush for Isaac Newton. We were quite happy with Aristotle’s cosmos. Personally, I preferred it. Fifty-five crystal spheres geared to God’s crankshaft is my idea of a satisfying universe. I can’t think of anything more trivial than the speed of light. Quarks, quasars—big bangs, black holes—who [cares]? How did you people con us out of all that status? All that money? And why are you so pleased with yourselves?
Chloe: Are you against penicillin, Bernard?
Bernard: Don’t feed the animals.
In the play, Acadia (1993), Act 2, Scene 5, 61.
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Newton advanced, with one gigantic stride, from the regions of twilight into the noon day of science. A Boyle and a Hooke, who would otherwise have been deservedly the boast of their century, served but as obscure forerunners of Newton's glories.
A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts (1845), 5.
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Three apples changed the world, Adam's apple, Newton's apple, and Steve's apple.
[Tweeted tribute for Steve Jobs, co-founder the Apple computer company.]
In Fouad Ajami, 'The Arab World's Unknown Son', Wall Street Journal (12 Oct 2011).
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There is a reward structure in science that is very interesting: Our highest honors go to those who disprove the findings of the most revered among us. So Einstein is revered not just because he made so many fundamental contributions to science, but because he found an imperfection in the fundamental contribution of Isaac Newton.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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I am putting together a secular bible. My Genesis is when the apple falls on Newton's head.
Quoted in interview by Tim Adams, 'This much I know: A.C. Grayling', The Observer (4 Jul 2009).
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In the beginning (if there was such a thing), God created Newton’s laws of motion together with the necessary masses and forces. This is all; everything beyond this follows from the development of appropriate mathematical methods by means of deduction.
Autobiographical Notes (1946), 19. In Albert Einstein, Alice Calaprice, Freeman Dyson , The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2011), 397.
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Because a fact seems strange to you, you conclude that it is not one. ... All science, however, commences by being strange. Science is successive. It goes from one wonder to another. It mounts by a ladder. The science of to-day would seem extravagant to the science of a former time. Ptolemy would believe Newton mad.
In Victor Hugo and Lorenzo O'Rourke (trans.) Victor Hugo's Intellectual Autobiography: (Postscriptum de ma vie) (1907), 322.
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The reason Dick's [Richard Feynman] physics was so hard for ordinary people to grasp was that he did not use equations. The usual theoretical physics was done since the time of Newton was to begin by writing down some equations and then to work hard calculating solutions of the equations. This was the way Hans [Bethe] and Oppy [Oppenheimer] and Julian Schwinger did physics. Dick just wrote down the solutions out of his head without ever writing down the equations. He had a physical picture of the way things happen, and the picture gave him the solutions directly with a minimum of calculation. It was no wonder that people who had spent their lives solving equations were baffled by him. Their minds were analytical; his was pictorial.
Quoted in Michio Kaku and Jennifer Trainer Thompson, Beyond Einstein: the Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe (1987, 1999), 56-57, citing Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe (1979, 1981), 55-56.
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For the birth of something new, there has to be a happening. Newton saw an apple fall; James Watt watched a kettle boil; Roentgen fogged some photographic plates. And these people knew enough to translate ordinary happenings into something new...
Quoted by André Maurois, The Life of Sir Alexander Fleming, trans. by Gerard Hopkins (1959), 167. Cited in Steven Otfinoski, Alexander Fleming: Conquering Disease with Penicillin (1993), 1.
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But the strong base and building of my love
Is as the very centre of the earth,
Drawing all things to 't.
Character Cressidus to Pandarus in play Troilus and Cressida (c.1601), Act 4, lines 200-202. In Troilus and Cressida (1811), 92.
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As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,
As sun to day, at turtle to her mate,
As iron to adamant, as earth to centre.
Character Troilus speaking to Cressida, in play Troilus and Cressida (c.1601), Act 3, lines 352-354. In Troilus and Cressida (1811), 72.
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Taking mathematics from the beginning of the world to the time when Newton lived, what he had done was much the better half.
As quoted in Edmund Fillingham King, A Biographical Sketch of Sir Isaac Newton (1858), 97, stating this was Leibniz's reply “when asked at the royal table in Berlin his opinion of Newton.” No source citation was given, although all the next quotes that followed had footnotes. The lack of citation leaves the accuracy of the quote unverified. If you know a primary source, please contact the Webmaster.
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Notwithstanding all that has been discovered since Newton’s time, his saying that we are little children picking up pretty pebbles on the beach while the whole ocean lies before us unexplored remains substantially as true as ever, and will do so though we shovel up the pebbles by steam shovels and carry them off in carloads.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 47.
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In reality the origin of the notion of derivatives is in the vague feeling of the mobility of things, and of the greater or less speed with which phenomena take place; this is well expressed by the terms fluent and fluxion, which were used by Newton and which we may believe were borrowed from the ancient mathematician Heraclitus.
From address to the section of Algebra and Analysis, International Congress of Arts and Sciences, St. Louis (22 Sep 1904), 'On the Development of Mathematical Analysis and its Relation to Certain Other Sciences,' as translated by M.W. Haskell in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (May 1905), 11, 407.
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There was yet another disadvantage attaching to the whole of Newton’s physical inquiries, ... the want of an appropriate notation for expressing the conditions of a dynamical problem, and the general principles by which its solution must be obtained. By the labours of LaGrange, the motions of a disturbed planet are reduced with all their complication and variety to a purely mathematical question. It then ceases to be a physical problem; the disturbed and disturbing planet are alike vanished: the ideas of time and force are at an end; the very elements of the orbit have disappeared, or only exist as arbitrary characters in a mathematical formula
Address to the Mechanics Institute, 'An Address on the Genius and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton' (1835), excerpted in paper by Luis M. Laita, Luis de Ledesma, Eugenio Roanes-Lozano and Alberto Brunori, 'George Boole, a Forerunner of Symbolic Computation', collected in John A. Campbell and Eugenio Roanes-Lozano (eds.), Artificial Intelligence and Symbolic Computation: International Conference AISC 2000 (2001), 3.
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[Newton is the] British physicist linked forever in the schoolboy mind with an apple that fell and bore fruit throughout physics.
As given in Patricia Fara, Newton: The Making of Genius (2004), 192.
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Socrates said, our only knowledge was
“To know that nothing could be known;” a pleasant
Science enough, which levels to an ass
Each Man of Wisdom, future, past, or present.
Newton, (that Proverb of the Mind,) alas!
Declared, with all his grand discoveries recent,
That he himself felt only “like a youth
Picking up shells by the great Ocean—Truth.”
From poem, 'Don Juan,' (1822), canto 7, verse V. In Lord Byron, Don Juan: Cantos VI, VII and VIII (1823), 67.
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We think of Euclid as of fine ice; we admire Newton as we admire the peak of Teneriffe. Even the intensest labors, the most remote triumphs of the abstract intellect, seem to carry us into a region different from our own—to be in a terra incognita of pure reasoning, to cast a chill on human glory.
In Estimates of Some Englishmen and Scotchmen (1856), 411-412
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Charles Darwin [is my personal favorite Fellow of the Royal Society]. I suppose as a physical scientist I ought to have chosen Newton. He would have won hands down in an IQ test, but if you ask who was the most attractive personality then Darwin is the one you'd wish to meet. Newton was solitary and reclusive, even vain and vindictive in his later years when he was president of the society.
From interview with Graham Lawton, 'One Minute with Martin Rees', in New Scientist (12 Dec 2009), 204, No. 2738.
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We pass by imperceptible gradations from the brute to the savage and from the savage to Euler and Newton.
In 'Esquisse', Oeuvres, Vol. 6, 346. As cited by Frank Edward Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (1979, 2009), 492.
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In science its main worth is temporary, as a stepping-stone to something beyond. Even the Principia, as Newton with characteristic modesty entitled his great work, is truly but the beginning of a natural philosophy, and no more an ultimate work, than Watt’s steam-engine, or Arkwright's spinning-machine.
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 46. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” This quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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It is no way derogatory to Newton, or Kepler, or Galileo, that Science in these days should have advanced far beyond them. Rather is this itself their crown of glory. Their works are still bearing fruit, and will continue to do so. The truths which they discovered are still living in our knowledge, pregnant with infinite consequences.
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 251. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” This quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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The aether: Invented by Isaac Newton, reinvented by James Clerk Maxwell. This is the stuff that fills up the empty space of the universe. Discredited and discarded by Einstein, the aether is now making a Nixonian comeback. It’s really the vacuum, but burdened by theoretical, ghostly particles.
In Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi, The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question (1993, 2006), xiii.
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The great Sir Isaac Newton,
He once made a valid proclamation,
That the forces equal to a nominated mass,
when multiplied by acceleration
That was the law of motion.
From lyrics of song Sod’s Law.
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My view, the skeptical one, holds that we may be as far away from an understanding of elementary particles as Newton's successors were from quantum mechanics. Like them, we have two tremendous tasks ahead of us. One is to study and explore the mathematics of the existing theories. The existing quantum field-theories may or may not be correct, but they certainly conceal mathematical depths which will take the genius of an Euler or a Hamilton to plumb. Our second task is to press on with the exploration of the wide range of physical phenomena of which the existing theories take no account. This means pressing on with experiments in the fashionable area of particle physics. Outstanding among the areas of physics which have been left out of recent theories of elementary particles are gravitation and cosmology
In Scientific American (Sep 1958). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 years ago', Scientific American (Sep 2008), 299, No. 3, 14.
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You have … been told that science grows like an organism. You have been told that, if we today see further than our predecessors, it is only because we stand on their shoulders. But this [Nobel Prize Presentation] is an occasion on which I should prefer to remember, not the giants upon whose shoulders we stood, but the friends with whom we stood arm in arm … colleagues in so much of my work.
From Nobel Banquet speech (10 Dec 1960).
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The landscape has been so totally changed, the ways of thinking have been so deeply affected, that it is very hard to get hold of what it was like before… It is very hard to realize how total a change in outlook Isaac Newton has produced.
From 'Newton and the Twentieth Century—A Personal View', collected in Raymond Flood, John Fauvel, Michael Shortland and Robin Wilson (eds.), Let Newton Be! A New Perspective on his Life and Works (1988), 241.
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The test of science is not whether you are reasonable—there would not be much of physics if that was the case—the test is whether it works. And the great point about Newton’s theory of gravitation was that it worked, that you could actually say something about the motion of the moon without knowing very much about the constitution of the Earth.
From Assumption and Myth in Physical Theory (1967), 10.
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If the apple hit Newton’s nose, Newton’s nose hit the apple.
In Orthodoxy (1908), 90.
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Un jour, en l'année 1666, Newton, retiré à la campagne, et voyant tomber des fruits d’un arbre, à ce que m'a conté sa nièce, (Mme Conduit) se laissa aller à une méditation profonde sur la cause qui entraîne ainsi tous les corps dans une ligne qui, si elle était prolongée, passerait à peu près par le centre de la Terre.
One day in the year 1666 Newton had gone to the country, and seeing the fall of an apple, [as his niece (Mme Conduit) told me,] let himself be led into a deep meditation on the cause which thus draws every object along a line whose extension would pass almost through the center of the Earth.
Original French from Éléments de Philosophie de Newton, Part 1, Chap. 3, in Oeuvres Completes de Voltaire (1785), Vol. 31, 175. Translation as given in an epigraph in Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorn and John Archibald Wheeler, Gravitation (1970, 1973), 47. An alternate translation is: “One day in the year 1666, Newton went into the country, and seeing fruit fall from a tree (as his niece, Madame Conduit, has informed me), entered into a profound train of thought as to the causes which could lead to such a drawing together or attraction.” As given in Robert Chambers (ed.), The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar (1888), Vol. 2, 757. (Note: Voltaire originally published his Éléments in 1738, but Webmaster could not find the above quote in it.)
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Da Vinci was as great a mechanic and inventor as were Newton and his friends. Yet a glance at his notebooks shows us that what fascinated him about nature was its variety, its infinite adaptability, the fitness and the individuality of all its parts. By contrast what made astronomy a pleasure to Newton was its unity, its singleness, its model of a nature in which the diversified parts were mere disguises for the same blank atoms.
From The Common Sense of Science (1951), 25.
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When Da Vinci wanted an effect, he willed, he planned the means to make it happen: that was the purpose of his machines. But the machines of Newton … are means not for doing but for observing. He saw an effect, and he looked for its cause.
From The Common Sense of Science (1951), 25.
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A taxonomy of abilities, like a taxonomy anywhere else in science, is apt to strike a certain type of impatient student as a gratuitous orgy of pedantry. Doubtless, compulsions to intellectual tidiness express themselves prematurely at times, and excessively at others, but a good descriptive taxonomy, as Darwin found in developing his theory, and as Newton found in the work of Kepler, is the mother of laws and theories.
From Intelligence: Its Structure, Growth and Action: Its Structure, Growth and Action (1987), 61.
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When we look back beyond one hundred years over the long trails of history, we see immediately why the age we live in differs from all other ages in human annals. … It remained stationary in India and in China for thousands of years. But now it is moving very fast. … A priest from Thebes would probably have felt more at home at the council of Trent, two thousand years after Thebes had vanished, than Sir Isaac Newton at a modern undergraduate physical society, or George Stephenson in the Institute of Electrical Engineers. The changes have have been so sudden and so gigantic, that no period in history can be compared with the last century. The past no longer enables us even dimly to measure the future.
From 'Fifty Years Hence', Strand Magazine (Dec 1931). Reprinted in Popular Mechanics (Mar 1932), 57, No. 3, 393.
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Nec fas est proprius mortali attingere divos.
It is not lawful for mortals to approach divinity nearer than this.
Last hexameter of the Latin verses, 'In viri praestantissimi isaaci newtoni opus hocce mathematico-physicum saeculi gentisque nostrae decus egregium' by which Edmond Halley expressed his admiration of Isaac Newton’s work. These were prefixed to Newton’s Principia, for which Halley supervised the publication. Translation as given in Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (1996), 131.
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Avant Kepler tous les hommes étoent aveugles, Kepler fut borgne, et Newton a eu deux yeux.
Before Kepler, all men were blind, Kepler had one eye, and Newton had two eyes.
From Voltaire’s Notebooks (1952), 63. As translated in Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (1996), 131.
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Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. Bentley met accidentally in London, and on Sir Isaac’s inquiring what philosophical pursuits were carrying on at Cambridge, the doctor replied—None—for when you go a hunting Sir Isaac, you kill all the game; you have left us nothing to pursue.—Not so, said the philosopher, you may start a variety of game in every bush if you will but take the trouble to beat for it.
From Richard Watson, Chemical Essays (1786, 1806), Vol. 4, 257-258. No citation given, so—assuming it is more or less authentic—Webmaster offers this outright guess. Watson was the source of another anecdote about Newton (see “I find more sure marks…”). Thus, one might by pure speculation wonder if this quote was passed along in the same way. Was this another anecdote relayed to Watson by his former teacher, Dr. Robert Smith (Master of Trinity House), who might have been told this by Newton himself? Perhaps we’ll never know, but if you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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To mean understandings, it is sufficient honour to be numbered amongst the lowest labourers of learning; but different abilities must find different tasks. To hew stone, would have been unworthy of Palladio; and to have rambled in search of shells and flowers, had but ill suited with the capacity of Newton.
From 'Numb. 83, Tuesday, January 1, 1750', The Rambler (1756), Vol. 2, 154. (Italian architect Palladio, 1509-80, is widely considered the most influential in the history of Western architecture.)
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No one must think that Newton’s great creation can be overthrown in any real sense by this [Theory of Relativity] or by any other theory. His clear and wide ideas will for ever retain their significance as the foundation on which our modern conceptions of physics have been built.
In 'Time, Space, and Gravitation', The Times (28 Nov 1919). Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 104.
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Did Newton, dreaming in his orchard there
Beside the dreaming Witham, see the moon
Burn like a huge gold apple in the boughs
And wonder why should moons not fall like fruit?
In Watchers of the Sky (1922), 193-194.
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Heroes of physics, Argonauts of our time
Who leaped the mountains, who crossed the seas …
You have confirmed in uncomfortable places
What Newton knew without leaving his study.
Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1734), Quatrieme discours: de la Moderation (1738). Quoted in and trans. J. L. Heilbron, Weighing Imponderables and Other Quantitative Science around 1800 (1993), 224.
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The other book you may have heard of and perhaps read, but it is not one perusal which will enable any man to appreciate it. I have read it through five or six times, each time with increasing admiration. It will live as long as the ‘Principia’ of Newton. It shows that nature is, as I before remarked to you, a study that yields to none in grandeur and immensity. The cycles of astronomy or even the periods of geology will alone enable us to appreciate the vast depths of time we have to contemplate in the endeavour to understand the slow growth of life upon the earth. The most intricate effects of the law of gravitation, the mutual disturbances of all the bodies of the solar system, are simplicity itself compared with the intricate relations and complicated struggle which have determined what forms of life shall exist and in what proportions. Mr. Darwin has given the world a new science, and his name should, in my opinion, stand above that of every philosopher of ancient or modem times. The force of admiration can no further go!!!
Letter to George Silk (1 Sep 1860), in My Life (1905), Vol. I, 372-373.
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The Newton of drift theory has not yet appeared. His absence need cause no anxiety; the theory is still young and still often treated with suspicion. In the long run, one cannot blame a theoretician for hesitating to spend time and trouble on explaining a law about whose validity no unanimity prevails.
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 167.
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The ponderous instrument of synthesis, so effective in his [Newton’s] hands, has never since been grasped by one who could use it for such purposes; and we gaze at it with admiring curiosity, as on some gigantic implement of war, which stands idle among the memorials of ancient days, and makes us wonder what manner of man he was who could wield as a weapon what we can hardly lift as a burden.
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1857), Vol. 2, 128.
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Physical investigation, more than anything besides, helps to teach us the actual value and right use of the Imagination—of that wondrous faculty, which, left to ramble uncontrolled, leads us astray into a wilderness of perplexities and errors, a land of mists and shadows; but which, properly controlled by experience and reflection, becomes the noblest attribute of man; the source of poetic genius, the instrument of discovery in Science, without the aid of which Newton would never have invented fluxions, nor Davy have decomposed the earths and alkalies, nor would Columbus have found another Continent.
Presidential Address to Anniversary meeting of the Royal Society (30 Nov 1859), Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1860), 10, 165.
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This quality of genius is, sometimes, difficult to be distinguished from talent, because high genius includes talent. It is talent, and something more. The usual distinction between genius and talent is, that one represents creative thought, the other practical skill: one invents, the other applies. But the truth is, that high genius applies its own inventions better than talent alone can do. A man who has mastered the higher mathematics, does not, on that account, lose his knowledge of arithmetic. Hannibal, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Newton, Scott, Burke, Arkwright, were they not men of talent as well as men of genius?
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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We all know we fall. Newton’s discovery was that the moon falls, too—and by the same rule that we do.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 112.
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We then got to Westminster Abbey and, moving about unguided, we found the graves of Newton, Rutherford, Darwin, Faraday, and Maxwell in a cluster.
(1980). In Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 294.
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Simple as the law of gravity now appears, and beautifully in accordance with all the observations of past and of present times, consider what it has cost of intellectual study. Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Euler, Lagrange, Laplace, all the great names which have exalted the character of man, by carrying out trains of reasoning unparalleled in every other science; these, and a host of others, each of whom might have been the Newton of another field, have all labored to work out, the consequences which resulted from that single law which he discovered. All that the human mind has produced—the brightest in genius, the most persevering in application, has been lavished on the details of the law of gravity.
in The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise: A Fragment (1838), 57.
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For some months the astronomer Halley and other friends of Newton had been discussing the problem in the following precise form: what is the path of a body attracted by a force directed toward a fixed point, the force varying in intensity as the inverse of the distance? Newton answered instantly, “An ellipse.” “How do you know?” he was asked. “Why, I have calculated it.” Thus originated the imperishable Principia, which Newton later wrote out for Halley. It contained a complete treatise on motion.
In The Handmaiden of the Sciences (1937), 37.
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Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome. And human beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered … Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor).
'Evolution as Fact and Theory', in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (1983), 254-255.
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Newton was probably responsible for the concept that there are seven primary colours in the spectrum—he had a strong interest in musical harmonies and, since there are seven distinct notes in the musical scale, he divided up the spectrum into spectral bands with widths corresponding to the ratios of the small whole numbers found in the just scale.
In 'Light and Colour', Trevor Lamb and Janine Bourriau, Colour: Art & Science (1995), 72.
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It seems as though no laws, not even fairly old ones, can safely be regarded as unassailable. The force of gravity, which we have always ascribed to the “pull of the earth,” was reinterpreted the other day by a scientist who says that when we fall it is not earth pulling us, it is heaven pushing us. This blasts the rock on which we sit. If science can do a rightabout-face on a thing as fundamental as gravity, maybe Newton was a sucker not to have just eaten the apple.
In 'Talk of the Town,', The New Yorker (3 Apr 1937). As cited in Martha White (ed.), In the Words of E.B. White (2011), 175.
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Newton’s and Darwin’s world were different from the worlds of most men, and yet their worlds were not the world, but more and better than mine, as they had followed out further and better the teachings of the sense.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xlviii.
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Newton was the greatest creative genius physics has ever seen. None of the other candidates for the superlative (Einstein, Maxwell, Boltzmann, Gibbs, and Feynman) has matched Newton’s combined achievements as theoretician, experimentalist, and mathematician. … If you were to become a time traveler and meet Newton on a trip back to the seventeenth century, you might find him something like the performer who first exasperates everyone in sight and then goes on stage and sings like an angel.
In Great Physicists (2001), 39.
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First, [Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation] is mathematical in its expression…. Second, it is not exact; Einstein had to modify it…. There is always an edge of mystery, always a place where we have some fiddling around to do yet…. But the most impressive fact is that gravity is simple…. It is simple, and therefore it is beautiful…. Finally, comes the universality of the gravitational law and the fact that it extends over such enormous distances…
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 33.
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Why do I call [Isaac Newton] a magician? Because he looked on the whole universe and all that is in it as a riddle, as a secret which could be read by applying pure thought to certain evidence, certain mystic clues which God had laid about the world to allow a sort of philosopher's treasure hunt.
In 'Newton, the Man' (1946). In Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), Essays in Biography, 2nd edition (1951), 313.
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[Isaac Newton] regarded the Universe as a cryptogram set by the Almighty—just as he himself wrapt the discovery of the calculus in a cryptogram when he communicated with Leibniz. By pure thought, by concentration of mind, the riddle, he believed, would be revealed to the initiate.
In 'Newton, the Man' (1946). In Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), Essays in Biography, 2nd edition (1951), 314.
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The second law of thermodynamics is, without a doubt, one of the most perfect laws in physics. Any reproducible violation of it, however small, would bring the discoverer great riches as well as a trip to Stockholm. The world’s energy problems would be solved at one stroke… . Not even Maxwell’s laws of electricity or Newton’s law of gravitation are so sacrosanct, for each has measurable corrections coming from quantum effects or general relativity. The law has caught the attention of poets and philosophers and has been called the greatest scientific achievement of the nineteenth century.
In Thermodynamics (1964). As cited in The Mathematics Devotional: Celebrating the Wisdom and Beauty of Physics (2015), 82.
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Newton made a universe which lasted 300 years. Einstein has made a universe, which I suppose you want me to say will never stop, but I don't know how long it will last.
Speech (28 Oct 1930) at the Savoy Hotel, London in Einstein’s honor sponsored by a committee to help needy Jews in Eastern Europe. In Albert Einstein, Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931), 32.
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Napoleon and other great men were makers of empires, but these eight men whom I am about to mention were makers of universes and their hands were not stained with the blood of their fellow men. I go back 2,500 years and how many can I count in that period? I can count them on the fingers of my two hands. Pythagoras, Ptolemy, Kepler, Copernicus, Aristotle, Galileo, Newton and Einstein—and I still have two fingers left vacant.
Speech (28 Oct 1930) at the Savoy Hotel, London in Einstein’s honor sponsored by a committee to help needy Jews in Eastern Europe. In Albert Einstein, Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931), 31.
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As to the Christian religion, Sir, … there is a balance in its favor from the number of great men who have been convinced of its truth after a serious consideration of the question. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a man accustomed to examine evidence, and he was convinced. Grotius was not a recluse, but a man of the world, who surely had no bias on the side of religion. Sir Isaac Newton set out an infidel, and came to be a very firm believer.
(1763). In George Birkbeck Hill (ed.), Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1799), Vol. 1, 524.
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If Newton had flourished in ancient Greece, he would have been worshipped as a Divinity.
A remark overheard by Sir William Jones, as reported in James Boswell (ed.), The Life of Samuel Johnson (1824), Vol. 2, 112, footnote.
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See also:
  • 25 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Newton's birth.
  • Isaac Newton - biography from Famous Men of Science (1889)
  • Isaac Newton - Comments on his “Playing on the Seashore” Quote
  • Isaac Newton - “Playing on the Seashore” illustrated quote - Medium 500px.
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  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “A change in motion” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
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  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “In experimental philosophy” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “In experimental philosophy” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Standing on the shoulders of giants” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
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  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Plato is my friend” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Plato is my friend” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Colours which appear through the Prism ” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Colours which appear through the Prism ” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Nature does nothing in vain” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
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  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “No more causes of natural things should be admitted” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “No more causes of natural things should be admitted” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
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  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “God, in the beginning, formed matter” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “God, in the beginning, formed matter” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “The cause of gravity is what I do not pretend to know” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “The cause of gravity is what I do not pretend to know” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Booklist for Isaac Newton.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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