Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer

By Michael White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Joining the Ancients

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

ISAAC NEWTON1

Even as the great battles of Newton's life reached their most acrimonious stage, he did not neglect the other aspects of his life. The Royal Society and the Mint may have been the twin pillars of his daily existence, but he also continued to pursue his theological researches and to maintain his network of society acquaintances and friends. Also, as he grew older and wealthier, his family increasingly turned to him for guidance and assistance, and he began to enjoy the status of patriarch. The boy once deserted by his mother and forced to live with his grandparents was now regarded with awe by his relatives; at last he was depended upon.

Some of them were gold-diggers -- distant members of the family were attracted by his fame and wealth. Surprisingly, he tolerated the spongers with infinitely more patience than he had shown clippers or scientific rivals. Soon after his nephew Robert ( Catherine Barton's brother) had been killed in Canada in 1711, Newton spent £4,000 purchasing an estate for his widow and three children (only to discover later that it was actually worth less than half of this). He gave £500 to a descendant of his mother's family, Ralph Ayscough, loaned a Thomas Ayscough £100 which he remitted, and, according to one relative, gave £800 to another Ayscough.2

In 1714, Katherine Rastall, the daughter of Newton's uncle, William Ayscough, wrote to him in desperation, declaring, 'Sir, I humbly desire you that you will be pleased to give the bearer [of this letter]

-343-

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Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction - Truth Revealed 1
  • 1: Desertion 6
  • 2 - The Changing View Of Matter and Energy 29
  • 3 - Academia 43
  • 4 - Astronomy and Mathematics Before Newton 66
  • 5 - A Toe in the Water 82
  • 6 - The Search for The Philosophers' Stone 104
  • 7 - The Sorcerer's Apprentice 131
  • 9 - To the Principia 190
  • 10 - Breakdown 222
  • 11 - Metamorphosis 255
  • 12 - Old Men's Battles 294
  • 13 - A Question of Priority 325
  • 14 - Joining the Ancients 343
  • References 363
  • Index 387
  • Picture Credits 403
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