Newton Papers : Miscellaneous Papers

Newton Papers

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Add. 4005 is a gathering of papers in Newton’s hand or concerning his life and work, including some correspondence and some proofs corrected by Newton [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(47);return false;'>3:11r</a>]. Subjects covered include the proper ordering of the Royal Society; the practice of education in England and Scotland; problems in cosmography, mechanics, and mathematics; the conduct of the priority dispute with Leibniz; astronomy and shipbuilding, as well as testimonials for scholars whom Newton promoted.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'> Perhaps one of the most interesting items is a brief document, headed ‘Of educating Youth in the Universities’ [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(69);return false;'>Add 4005.7</a>], probably dating from the 1690s, when Newton was consulted on appointments and practices at both the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and at Christ’s Hospital in London. It draws on Newton’s own educational experience and certainly reflects his interest in particular topics of natural philosophy. The programme of study that Newton recommends is fairly conservative: as a young man, he would have recognised a mathematical education grounded on ‘some easy & usefull practicall things, then Euclid, Sphericks, the projections of the Sphere, the construction of Mapps, Trigonometry, Astronomy, Opticks, Musick, Algebra…’. The course that he suggested in philosophy concentrates on many of the topics that he had himself considered as a student and recorded in his commonplace book <a href='/view/MS-ADD-03996'>Add. 3996</a>: ‘time, space, body, place, motion & its laws, force, mechanical powers, gravity & its laws, Hydrostaticks, Projectiles solid & fluid, circular motions & [the] forces relating to them’. Nevertheless, these were precisely the areas of natural philosophy that had been revolutionised by Newton’s own published work in the <i>Principia</i>. While it is tempting therefore to assume that Newton intended his own writings to become the basis of undergraduate instruction, one should perhaps remember that he was known in Cambridge as ‘the man who has writt a book that neither he nor any one else understands’. Most of the relatively few people who could claim to understand the <i>Principia</i> during the 1690s were either distinguished natural philosophers in their own right or individuals close to its author who were able to ask him for advice. Yet Newton’s insistence in this document that mathematical learning should underpin later investigations in natural philosophy is still remarkable.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'> The most unusual aspects of Newton’s scheme, however, relate to the administration of learning. Not only did he suggest that Colleges should employ designated people to serve as lecturers in subjects like mathematics or philosophy, in addition to the role played by undergraduate tutors, but he also specified the terms under which they should serve. He was equally thorough concerning the duties of tutors and the fees that they might charge their students. Finally, Newton was explicit in condemning what he saw as a continuing legacy of Roman Catholic error. This was the practice of forcing College fellows to swear that they would take orders or uphold the established Church. He attacked the perjury that he believed to be the inevitable result of this behaviour and insisted that others should be allowed the religious toleration that he had himself enjoyed: ‘No oaths of office to be imposed on [the] Lecturers’.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>Niccolò Guicciardini, Università degli Studi di Milano, and Scott Mandelbrote, Peterhouse, Cambridge.</p>


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