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Thread: Papers show Isaac Newton's religious side

  1. -1
    BAMAPHIN 22's Avatar
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    Papers show Isaac Newton's religious side


    Rarely seen Isaac Newton documents showcase the scientist's interest in religion.

    Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible -- exhibited this week for the first time -- lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist.

    Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law -- even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters -- and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end.

    The documents, purchased by a Jewish scholar at a Sotheby's auction in London in 1936, have been kept in safes at Israel's national library in Jerusalem since 1969. Available for decades only to a small number of scholars, they have never before been shown to the public.

    In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

    "It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."

    In another document, Newton interpreted biblical prophecies to mean that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the world ends. The end of days will see "the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews captivity and their setting up a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom," he posited.

    The exhibit also includes treatises on daily practice in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. In one document, Newton discussed the exact dimensions of the temple -- its plans mirrored the arrangement of the cosmos, he believed -- and sketched it. Another paper contains words in Hebrew, including a sentence taken from the Jewish prayerbook.

    Yemima Ben-Menahem, one of the exhibit's curators, said the papers show Newton's conviction that important knowledge was hiding in ancient texts.
    "He believed there was wisdom in the world that got lost. He thought it was coded, and that by studying things like the dimensions of the temple, he could decode it," she said.

    The Newton papers, Ben-Menahem said, also complicate the idea that science is diametrically opposed to religion. "These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see God's actions in the world," she said.

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science....ap/index.html
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    CrunchTime's Avatar
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    A little known facet of Isaac Newton is that he also believed in Alchemy and wasted much of his life trying to make gold out of base metals.

    Early in his life he was a brilliant man but he became rather a dullard in his later life when he achieved a certain degree of power and became a hindrance to forward thinking academy of science members



    Sir Isaac Newton, the famous seventeenth-century mathematician and scientist, though not generally known as an alchemist, practiced the art with a passion. Though he wrote over a million words on the subject, after his death in 1727, the Royal Society deemed that they were "not fit to be printed." The papers were rediscovered in the middle of the twentieth century and most scholars now concede that Newton was first an foremost an alchemist. It is also becoming obvious that the inspiration for Newton's laws of light and theory of gravity came from his alchemical work.
    If one looks carefully, in the light of alchemical knowledge, at the definitive biography, Sir Isaac Newton by J. W. V. Sullivan, it is quite easy to realize the alchemical theories from which he was working. Sir Arthur Eddington, in reviewing this book, says: "The science in which Newton seems to have been chiefly interested, and on which he spent most of his time was alchemy. He read widely and made innumerable experiments, entirely without fruit so far as we know." One of his servants records: "He very rarely went to bed until two or three of the clock, sometimes not till five or six, lying about four or five hours, especially at springtime or autumn, at which time he used to employ about six weeks in his laboratory, the fire scarce going out night or day. What his aim might be I was unable to penetrate into." The answer is that Newton's experiments were concerned with nothing more or less than alchemy. (from Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored by A. Cockren)
    As a practicing alchemist, Newton spent days locked up in his laboratory, and not a few have suggested that he finally succeeded in transmuting lead into gold. Perhaps that explains one of the oddest things about his life. At the height of his career, instead of accepting a professorship at Cambridge, he was appointed Director of the Mint with the responsibility of securing and accounting for England's repository of gold.
    In fact, Newton -- the revered founder of modern science and the mechanistic universe -- also ranks as one of the greatest spiritual alchemists of all time. In his The Religion of Isaac Newton (Oxford 1974), F.E. Manuel concluded: "The more Newton's theological and alchemical, chronological and mythological work is examined as a whole corpus, set by the side of his science, the more apparent it becomes that in his moments of grandeur he saw himself as the last of the interpreters of God's will in actions, living on the fulfillment of times."


    http://www.alchemylab.com/isaac_newton.htm

    You have to take the good with the bad when it comes to geniuses.



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    PhinPhan1227's Avatar
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    If anyone likes historical fiction, I highly recomend the novel "Quicksilver". It's an exploration of the emergence of scientific thought during the baroque period. Interesting treatment of Newton.
    - "What do we mean by the defeat of the enemy? Simply the destruction of his forces, whether by death, injury, or any other means -- either completely or enough to make him stop fighting. . . . ."-Carl von Clausewitz-
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrunchTime View Post
    A little known facet of Isaac Newton is that he also believed in Alchemy and wasted much of his life trying to make gold out of base metals.

    Early in his life he was a brilliant man but he became rather a dullard in his later life when he achieved a certain degree of power and became a hindrance to forward thinking academy of science members



    http://www.alchemylab.com/isaac_newton.htm

    You have to take the good with the bad when it comes to geniuses.
    That article doesn't seem to mention it, but the dulling of his mind was apparently due to mercury poisoning from those chemical experiments.

    As far as the good with the bad, the good thing about science is the only thing that really matters are your successes. Sure, you might take some flak for mistakes made, but as long as you do have success that's deemed of high enough value to note, it will be noted and the rest often is quickly forgotted (especially once you die).

    I think one of the best examples of just a few successes standing out among lots of failures is Kepler. Most of what they guy wrote is truly junk if seen from a scientist's point of view (except a historian). But, almost hidden in his writings are what we today call Kepler's laws of planetary motion, which along with Galileo's works was important in allowing Newton to test his law of gravitation (from which Kepler's laws are an easy deduction).
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    No doubt.Thats way before Mercury poisoning became a common malaise for experimentation with chemicals......way before.:wink:.

    The symptons were mostly attibuted to madness or senility.
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