[Milton-L] Milton and Newton (Again?)

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 22 18:33:27 EDT 2009

I've been listening lately to several lectures by one of my old history-of-science professors, John Heilbron, and I was struck by his response to a question that followed his lecture on "Physics and History: Fractured in Modernity," at about 54 minutes and 30 seconds into the video:
The question concerned Newton's 'obsessive' interest in 'nonscientific' things and was posed by a scientist puzzled about Newton's obsessions with scriptural interpretation.
Here's what I wrote to John after watching the video:

I was struck by your remark in response to a question from a scientist about Newton's 'other' interests. You stated that Newton considered himself a "prophet." What struck me was the fact that Milton thought the same of himself. I wonder if anyone has written a comparison of Milton and Newton, for the former not only seems to have considered himself a prophet but busied himself in all areas of knowledge. Something about the 17th century seems to have driven individuals -- or Milton and Newton, anyway -- to attempt a regrounding of all knowledge. I suppose that it's part of that great historical process set in motion by the collapse of the Medieval worldview.
John suggested that I add Galileo to the list, and I suspect that one might even add Descartes -- who needed God's 'revelation' to ensure the truth of his system.
Anyway, since Milton and Newton had such similar interests, have many comparative studies been done of the two?
This is the sort of thing that I ought to know about already (and I recall that we had some discussion of this recently), but I confess myself quite ignorant.
By the way, John's first lecture, "Physics and History: Forged in the Baroque," is also good:
It's also about an hour in length.
Jeffery Hodges
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