Syllabus [SciRev Fall 2008]

For the Week of 11/12/08

Assignment 11

Fig. Newton

Newton’s Death Mask [inverted to be creepier]

Read pp. 110-190 in the Westfall book that you all bought.  I had forgotten how ambiguous Westfall can be when it comes to dates in this edited down version of the life of Newton that we are reading. Here is a timeline that may help you figure things out a bit better. – Basic Newton Timeline


Read this short (one page) fictional free association: Newton-Reverie-1666ish.htm


Look over the stuff I have posted below.


Read the following selections from the Queries from Opticks: pp. 339-354, 362-377 (note the alchemical descriptions), 388-389, 398-406 (Queries 1-24, 28, 29, parts of 30, and parts of 31). Read Newton_QueriesExcerpts-6MB.pdf.  I have also posted an edited version of Query 31 as a separate .htm page.  If you read the Newman chapter on alchemy last week [p. 513], it referred to Query 31 in The Opticks for Newton’s use of Starkey/Helmontian/Gerberian matter theory. Newton-Opticks-edited-Query_31.htm


Read Newton’s thoughts on absolute space and a couple of his letters to Bentley. pp. 202-207 and 211-216: Munitz-ed. Newton_Chapter-4.1MB.pdf  From – Munitz, Milton Karl, ed. Theories of the Universe; from Babylonian Myth to Modern Science, The Library of Scientific Thought. Glencoe, Ill.,: Free Press, 1965.  The Newton chapter includes “Scholium” (absolute vs. relative space – bucket discussion), “General Scholium” that Newton added to the 2nd ed. of Principia in 1713, and four letters to Bentley.  Here is a separate .htm of the “General Scholium.”: Newton-Principia-GENERAL_SCHOLIUM.htm. 


Write: Compare with, contrast to, analyze, think, muse, converse with, expand, derive, invent, reinvent, show, prove, give evidence for, cite, imitate, expose something.



Dark Side of the ... 

This is a diagram from Newton’s Opticks from 1704. 

I have added some interpretive images and a new title.



Newton drew this for a French ed. of Opticks.  It says, “Light doesn’t vary color when refracted.”

Nec variat lux fracta colorem.  More literally: Light doesn’t change when broken into color.

I colorized it to for clarity. Some of the light from the hole in the window-covering on the left (focused by that big lens) is intercepted by the prism, and some of it continues on to hit the lower part of the screen. The prism emits a rainbow.  The red-part of the rainbow then passes through a hole in the screen and into another prism where it is not broken up anymore, proving that…

Nec variat lux fracta colorem – Light doesn’t change when broken into color

Read this.

From Newton’s Opticks, 1st ed. 1704.  Read this.




Above is a diagram from Newton’s Opticks (1704) which I have colorized for clarity.

Notice that he is suggesting that the rainbow is divided into 7 colors

just as the string of a monochord is divided into 7 intervals, the seven intervals of our major scale: Do, re, mi, fa… etc.

Newton even gives the Pythagorean-style intervals: 8/9, 3/4, 2/3, 1/2….

Below I have added to his diagram the profile of a monochord/guitar with the Pythagorean intervals shown below. 



Interesting trivia… (extracted from a paper I once wrote…)


Leibniz, the German/French counterpart to Newton, after having read Newton’s Opticks, wrote, “Sir Isaac Newton says, that space is an organ, which God makes use of to perceive things by.”  [from Clarke, Leibniz, Newton and Alexander, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence: Together with Extracts From Newton's Principia and Opticks. Philosophical Classics (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1956), p. 11.]


What Leibniz was responding to was this (in the Latin edition of Opticks that Leibniz was reading), “Universal Space is the Sensorium of the Incorporeal, Living, and Intelligent Being;…”  Newton had actually corrected this passage by making it clear that he was making an analogy, but Leibniz somehow had gotten an uncorrected edition.


What Newton means is this: Perception occurs by exposing  “sensing substance” [What he calls “substantia sentiens” in Latin] to the  “sensible species of things” [“sensibiles rerum species”], which are gathered and brought to the brain where this “sensing substance” is located.  This description needs almost no modification to be a Galenic/Avicennic description of sensory perception based on spiritus animalis, which we have discussed in previous classes. I find it quite interesting that Newton is still operating on this theory of perception.


Newton goes on in the corrected passage to suggest that God, being omnipresent, perceives the entire universe merely by being present throughout all space.  It is not so much that the all of space is God’s sensorium, but that God is everywhere and acts as if [tanquam] He were the spiritus animalis of human perception. Unlike humans, who need spiritus or “sensing substance” to connect their souls to the world, God needs no intermediary for the perception of the world.   He is Himself, as it were, the intermediary, the spiritus.  After all, what do you think the Holy Spirit is? 


Put another way: It would be like saying that God is the machine code (or perhaps the system software) of the universal computer that we call reality.  He permeates everything and is everywhere.  Nothing is instigated or caused without His 0s and 1s.  For Him, causing and perceiving are one and the same activity.  Freaky. 


Disclaimer: Newton had a rather radical opinion of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He was secretly an anti-Trinitarian and a follower of the teachings of Arius from the early 4th century AD, who proposed that the Son was not coeternal with God but had actually been created by God in time. This issue is directly addressed in the Nicaean Creed, which makes the Trinity “one in being.”  It was written very specifically against Arius who was then excommunicated for his heretical ideas.  The Council of Nicaea (the meeting that wrote the creed) was largely instigated by the Emperor Constantine and can quite easily be seen as a political exercise whereby a certain group of theologians seized control and solidified their power by officially making their adversaries heretics.  It is not much of a surprise that the winners of this controversy were the ones backed by the Emperor Constantine.  Christianity in the first couple hundred years was theologically very diverse, but when the Roman Emperor got involved such variety was no longer acceptable. Power from the top down became the structure.  After all, the Roman Catholic Church is Roman, as in Roman Empire. 


Newton, an avid Biblical scholar, and probably several other major players in the later Scientific Revolution were secretly followers of Arius.  Secretly, because even after fourteen-hundred years, Arius was still considered a threat to both Catholic and Protestant theologians.  To be perfectly honest, I have tried to understand this issue, but have never really figured it out.  It is very complicated and esoteric and seems to be concerned with theological details that I simply don’t find all that critical.  But this probably means that I simply haven’t tried hard enough to understand. 


If anybody is interested, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on Arius and Arianism and the Arian controversy.  I can also hook you up with more stuff if you want.  Just email me.


I looked up the word sensorium to try to figure out what Newton meant.  It actually is not a Latin word, but an English word with a Latin root.


Here is an extract from Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language; 4th ed. (1773)

Sensorium, Sensory n.s. [Latin]--  1) The part where the senses transmit their perceptions to the mind; seat of sense; 2) Organ of sensation


Selected Examples given by Johnson:

-Bacon:  “Spiritual species, both visible and audible, will work upon the sensories, though they move not any other body.”

-Newton:  “As found in a bell or musical string, or other sounding body, is nothing but a trembling motion, and the air nothing but that motion propagated from the object, in the sensorium ‘tis a sense of that motion under the form of sound.”

-Newton from Query 28:  “Is not the Sensory  of Animals that place to which the sensitive Substance is present, and into which  the sensible Species of Things are carried through the Nerves and Brain, that there they may be perceived by their immediate presence to that Substance?”


Citations to the above readings and additional references for souped up homework.

Some of this was also in last week’s batch of sources.


Andersen, Kirsti, and Henk J. M. Bos. "Pure Mathematics." In The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Science (1490-1730), ed. Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston, pp. 696-723. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Andersen-Bos_CambridgeEarlyModCh28PureMath-5.5MB.pdf


Boyer, Carl B. "The History of the Calculus." The Two-Year College Mathematics Journal 1, no. 1 (1970): 60-86.  Boyer wrote the book on the history of the calculus, but this is a very condensed essay on the same topic.  Boyer_HistoryofCalculus-2.3MB.pdf


Clarke, Leibniz, Newton and Alexander, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence: Together with Extracts From Newton's Principia and Opticks. Philosophical Classics (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1956).  Your library might have a copy of these.  They are very interesting.  Google Books has a portion of this correspondence: Leibniz-Clarke+Correspondence.  Here is a link to extracts from the letters, leibniz-clarke.html, but these extractions don’t set the stage as nicely as the full correspondence.


Disalle, Robert. "Newton's Philosophical Analysis of Space and Time." In The Cambridge Companion to Newton, ed. I. Bernard Cohen and George E. Smith, pp. 33-56. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Disalle_CambridgeNewton_Space-time-2.8MB.pdf  This article has some thoughts on Newton’s famous “bucket” argument which you read about in the “Scholium.”


Dobbs, Betty Jo Teeter. The Foundations of Newton's Alchemy : Or, "The Hunting of the Greene Lyon". Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975. –You may find this in the library.  It is a classic that stirred up a lot of scholars.  Below are a couple of articles she wrote.


Dobbs_NewtonAlchemyandTheoryMatter-668KB.pdf – see article for citation information.


Dobbs_Newton_as_Final_Cause-328KB.pdf – see article for citation information.



Cohen, I. Bernard. The Birth of a New Physics. Revised and updated ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1985.  Cohen_BirthNewPhysics_NewtonParts-4.1MB.pdf -This PDF contains the parts on Newton and some “Supplements” on Newtonian issues. These are mostly mathematical physics details.  If you are math inclined, you could probably find in issue or two in this and give it some thought.


Feingold, Mordechai. The Newtonian Moment : Isaac Newton and the Making of Modern Culture. New York: New York Public Library, 2004. Feingold_NewtonianWomen-3.4MB.pdf  This is a chapter about how women were involved with the Newtonian revolution. There is more of a story there than you might think. 


Fernie, Donald J. "Finding out the Longitude." American Scientist?, no.? (2002). Fernie_FindingOuttheLongitude.htm


Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Theory of Colours. Cambridge, Mass.,: M.I.T. Press, 1970.  Goethe’s color theory (1st ed. 1810): I suggest you read paragraphs 1-20, 47-52, 135, 695-705, 722-728, 758-793 (choose a couple of colors, no need to read about all of them), 833-847 (read over a few that interest you).  I included more in this PDF if you feel like reading it as well.  [ca. 10 pages]: Goethe_Color_Theory-Excerpts_with_pics-4.6MB.pdf This color theory is about 100 years after Newton, and promotes a much different theory.  Just goes to show that Newton didn’t dominate the world as much as it sometimes seems. 


Hessen, B. The Social and Economic Roots of Newton's 'Principia'. New York: Howard Fertig, 1971.  Hessen-Marx-and-Newton-3.1MB.pdf  There are several essays in this PDF.  This stuff is what they call “whack” these days.  You might find it interesting all the same.  These are Marxist analyses of Newton and SciRev and Industrial Rev. topics.  Those with an interest in political theory may find this interesting even if you don’t agree with it.


Holton, Gerald James, Stephen G. Brush, and Gerald James Holton. Physics, the Human Adventure : From Copernicus to Einstein and Beyond. [3rd ed. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001. Brush-Holton-Physics-Rotation-Gravity-4.7MB.pdf – This excerpt contains derivations for centripital acceleration and other related mathematical ideas as well as some historical context.  Brush and Holton are both serious historians and physicists and their explanations are generally easy to follow.


Hooke’s objections to Newton’s theory (1671/2) [ca. 9 pages.] Hooke_1671-2CritiqueOfNewtonLight-1MB.pdf  This PDF is probably from Thomas Sprat’s The History of the Royal Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge. 3d ed. London,: Printed for S. Chapman, 1722.  …but I am not totally sure where it came from.


Kahn, David. "Secrets of Nature : Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe." In Secrets of Nature : Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe, ed. William R. Newman and Anthony Grafton, ?-?? Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001. Kahn-Newman-Grafton-Rosicrucian_Hoax-9.7MB.pdf


Koestler, Arthur. The Sleepwalkers : A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe. New York: Macmillan, 1959.  There is a section on Newton in this book that you already own.


Mandelbrote, Scott. "Newton and Eithgeenth-Century Christianity." In The Cambridge Companion to Newton, ed. I. Bernard Cohen and George E. Smith, pp. 409-430. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.  Mandlebrote-CambridgeNewton_Christianity-6.3MB.pdf


Manuel, Frank Edward. A Portrait of Isaac Newton. Da Capo Press pbk. ed. The Da Capo Series in Science. New York, N.Y.: Da Capo Press, 1990. – You may find this in a library near you.  This also got people all riled up.


McGuire, J. E., and P. M. Rattansi. "Newton and the 'Pipes of Pan'." Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 21, no. 2 (1966): 108-143. McGuire-Rattansi_NewtonPipesOfPan-1MB.pdf

             -Included in this article is a short part on music in relation to Newton's alchemical hobbies.


Newman, William R. "From Alchemy To "Chymistry"." In The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Science (1490-1730), ed. Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston, vol. 3, 497-517. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Newman_FromAlchemyToChemCh21-4.5MB.pdf


Newman, William, and Issac Newton. "Newton's Clavis as Starkey's Key." Isis 78, no. 4 (1987): 564-574. Newman-Newton_Clavis_Starkey_Key-676KB.pdf


Newton, Isaac. "A Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton, Professor of the Mathematicks in the University of Cambridge; Containing His New Theory About Light and Colors: Sent by the Author to the Publisher from Cambridge, Febr. 6. 1671/72; in Order to Be Communicated to the R. Society." Philosophical Transactions 6 (1671): pp. 3075-3087. Newton_1671-2NewTheoryOfLightColors-2.4MB.pdf  Newton's first significant musings on light.  It’s very readable. 


Newton, Isaac. Opticks; or, a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections & Colours of Light. Based on the 4th Ed., London, 1730. New York,: Dover Publications, 1952. (First ed. from 1704.) Newton_OpticksExcerpts-1.7MB.pdf – 14pp


Park, David Allen. The How and the Why : An Essay on the Origins and Development of Physical Theory. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988.  This PDF has a couple of appendices that derive Newton’s theorem involving centripital acceleration, the lunar orbit, Kepler’s law of areas, and conic justification.  ParkAppendices-756KB.pdf


Rogers, G. A. J. "Locke's Essay and Newton's Principia." Journal of the History of Ideas 39, no. 2 (1978): pp. 217-232. Rogers-Lockes_Essay_Newton_Principia-524KB.pdf


Sabra, A. I. Theories of Light: From Descartes to Newton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Reprint, 1967 first ed. Sabra_Ch5_FermatLeastTime_Theories_of_Light-3.2MB.pdfThis is chapter 5 on Fermat’s Principle of Least Time, which I think is pretty awsome philosophical mathematics. Think about what this means, a principle of least time.


Scott, Wilson L. "The Significance Of "Hard Bodies" In the History of Scientific Thought." Isis 50, no. 3 (1959): 199-210. Scott,Wilson-Significance_of_Hardbodies-436MB.pdf  This is an excellent article on Newtonian atomism and conservation theory in the making.


Shapiro, Alan E. "Artists' Colors and Newton's Colors." Isis 85, no. 4 (1994): 600-630. Shapiro-Artists_Colors_Newtons_Colors.pdf


Shapiro, Alan E. " The Evolving Structure of Newton's Theory of White Light and Color." Isis 71, no. 2 (1980): 211-235. Shapiro-Evolving_Structure_Newton_White_Light_color-700KB.pdf


Smith, David Eugene. A Source Book in Mathematics. 1st ed. Source Books in the History of the Sciences. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, inc., 1929. Newton-Fluxion-Integration_Smith_Sourcebook-2.5MB.pdf - This is Newton inventing the calculus.  What this PDF lacks in image quality it makes up in opacity.  This is only for the mathematically courageous.  I might go over some of this in class.


Struik, Dirk Jan. A Source Book in Mathematics, 1200-1800.  Source Books in the History of the Sciences. Cambridge, Mass.,: Harvard University Press, 1969. Struik_ed.-Newton-Gregory_BinomialSeries-1.8MB.pdf

          -This the derivation of the binomial series. This was hugely important to the development of the calculus.  If you want to give it a shot.  Go for it.  Read it over and try to figure out how it all fits together.


Westfall, Richard S. Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.  Images on this page are from this book.  This is the unedited version of the book we are reading in class.  I have posted this PDF of Chapter 4 from this book.  It is the mathematical chapter and has descriptions of the first moments of the calculus (differential and integral) and various other derivations of interest.  A walk through of one of these mathematical monents could make a good souped up essay. If you want more material like this, I can hook you up.  Westfall_Ch4_Never_at_Reft-6.4MB.pdf  [See also the Park (above) for similar material.]


Westfall, Richard S. The Life of Isaac Newton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.  You should own this.







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Posted: 12/6/08 5:06 PM