He is the mathematician who laid the foundations of classical physics, formulated the laws of motion and the law of gravity, and remains the epitome of the age of reason.
But Isaac Newton’s secret obsessions with alchemy and the dark branches of theology, which only came to light 200 years after his death, reveal another side of the man who helped shape the modern world.
Unpublished notes are now displayed showing Newton’s attempts to unlock hidden codes in the Bible and determine the timing of the apocalypse. being sold by Sotheby’s. Three pages of scribbles at the Egyptian pyramids, which Newton believed contained the key to deep secrets, are expected to sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds when online deals close on Tuesday.
In a variation of “the dog ate my homework,” the notes were burned by a fire apparently caused by Newton’s dog, Diamond, who jumps on a table and throws a candle.
“These are really fascinating articles because in them you can see Newton trying to solve the secrets of the pyramids,” said Gabriel Heaton, a manuscript specialist at Sotheby’s. Observer. “It is a wonderful confluence of bringing Newton and these great objects from classical antiquity together that have fascinated people for thousands of years. The articles take you remarkably quickly right into the heart of a series of deeper questions Newton was investigating. “
Newton studied the pyramids in the 1680s, during a period of self-imposed academic exile at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, far from his base at Cambridge University, following criticism of his work from his rival Robert Hooke of the Royal Society.
Newton was trying to discover the unit of measurement used by those who built the pyramids. He thought that it was likely that the ancient Egyptians could have measured the Earth and that by unlocking the elbow of the Great Pyramid, he could also measure the circumference of the Earth.
He hoped that would lead him to other ancient measurements, allowing him to discover the architecture and dimensions of Solomon’s Temple, the scene of the apocalypse, and interpret the hidden meanings of the Bible.
“He was trying to find evidence for his theory of gravitation, but in addition, the ancient Egyptians were thought to have the secrets of alchemy that have since been lost,” Heaton said. “Today these seem like disparate study areas, but they didn’t seem that way to Newton in the 17th century.”
Newton kept to himself his obsession with alchemy and his heterodox religious beliefs, a rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. This was not because he feared that his faith might discredit his scientific work, or vice versa, but because his unorthodox views would cost him his career.
Although his reputation was based on his mathematical and scientific discoveries, for Newton these were secondary to his “higher” studies in alchemy and theology. A stash of manuscripts on these subjects appeared at Sotheby’s in 1936; some of them were bought by economist and devotee of Newton John Maynard Keynes, who described his hero as “the last of the magicians.”
Heaton said: “The idea that science is an alternative to religion is a modern set of thoughts. Newton would not have believed that his scientific work could undermine religious beliefs. He wasn’t trying to disprove Christianity – this is a man who spent a lot of time trying to establish the probable time period for the biblical apocalypse. That is why he was so interested in the pyramids. “
Newton Mathematical principles of natural philosophy, published in 1687, cemented his status as a scientific superstar. The culmination of decades of work and thought, the masterpiece outlined his theories of calculus and gravitation and the laws of motion, providing a new understanding of the universe.
A few years later, Newton suffered a severe crisis, but recovered to be elected deputy and appointed master of the mint. He also became president of the Royal Society. After his death in 1727, he received a state funeral and was buried with full honors at Westminster Abbey.
He was a “thorny individual, always up for a fight,” Heaton said. Others have described him as reserved, neurotic, spiteful, vindictive, ruthless, arrogant, obsessive, and paranoid. “He liked to think of himself as the new messiah, come to save the world,” according to Professor Patricia Fara, a historian of science at the University of Cambridge.
But Newton’s genius is indisputable. “Everything he studied, everything he touched – religion, physics, math, alchemy, chemistry – he brought incredible depth, complexity, and originality,” said Heaton.
The papers are likely to be purchased by a private collector, although institutional libraries may also submit offers. “There is great interest in scientific books and manuscripts; It’s the fastest growing area I’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years, ”Heaton said. “We have complex attitudes towards many historical figures, but the great heroes of science remain as tall as ever.”
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.