07 November 2005

Lost notes on alchemy by Isaac Newton found

This is obviously making the occult rounds, but for those of you with a more science-oriented background, the following is noteworthy:—
Notes by the 17th century UK mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton, which scientists thought had been lost, have been found.

The notes on alchemy were originally discovered after Newton's death in 1727 but were lost after they were sold at auction in July 1936 for £15.

They were found while researchers were cataloguing manuscripts at the Royal Society, the UK's academy of leading scientists.

"This is a hugely exciting find for Newton scholars and for historians of science in general," says Dr John Young, of London's Imperial College Newton Project.

Newton is famous for his work in many areas, including mathematics, optics, astronomy, gravity and the laws of motion.

But he, like other leading scientists at the time, also researched alchemy, the notion of transforming base metals like lead to precious metals like gold and silver.

Much of the text is about the French 17th century alchemist Pierre-Jean Fabre. But one page is on Newton's own thoughts on alchemy.

"It provides vital evidence about the alchemical authors Newton was reading, and the alchemical theories he was investigating in the last decades of the 17th century," Young adds.

Newton's recently unearthed notes reflect part of his life hidden from the public while he was alive. This was partly because making gold and silver was illegal, and had been since the 1400s.

The text was written in English in his own handwriting, but it is not easy to decipher.

At the time, alchemists tended to record their methods and theories in symbols and codes so others couldn't understand.

Newton's celebrated work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) is considered one of the most important works in the history of modern science.

In it he formulates the three laws of motion, which formed the basis of classical mechanics, and laws of universal gravitation.

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