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

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 23 15:35:02 EDT 2009

And speaking of that devil Newton, here's what John Heilbron had to say about the man in a lecture on "Physics and History: Fractured in Modernity" (March 2008), in response to a question posed by a scientist who found incomprehensible that Newton would pour so much credulous energy into religious studies and who asked why Newton had done this sort of unbelievable work:

Well, I think Newton thought himself a prophet, and he took all knowledge as his sphere and was trying to recover what the ancients knew, and he felt that certain ancient texts required his particular study, mainly -- or among others -- the prophecies of Daniel, and he spent a lot of time trying to identify events subsequent to the prophecy that did occur with their prophetic description. That was part of his self-image. And to employ an analogy, from science you have the quantum Newton. You cannot have Newton the world-system builder, the mathematician -- the towering mathematician -- without Newton the prophet because they come together. They are responding to the same set of problems of the time in which he lived. And so for me, it's a puzzle indeed to think that a man had the energy to devote himself with such ferocity to so wide a range of subjects, but I'm not surprised at all that a mind as capacious as his would have wished, at that time, to
 undertake such studies. I decline the terms of the question insofar as it implies that we could have had Newton of the Principia without Newton of the Prophecies of Daniel or the Ancient Kingdoms Amended.
I transcribed these words from the lecture and posted them on my blog this morning . . . along with a few other remarks, quotes, and links:
Jeffery Hodges

--- On Wed, 9/23/09, Nancy Charlton <nbcharlton at comcast.net> wrote:

From: Nancy Charlton <nbcharlton at comcast.net>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton and Newton (Again?)
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 1:43 PM

Speak of the devil!  Here is a link from A Word A Day of a title page of the Principia:


Nancy Charlton

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