Isaak Newton Alchemical Research And Writings

Isaak Newton Alchemical Research And Writings Cover Much of what are known as Isaac Newton's occult studies can largely be attributed to his study of alchemy. Newton was deeply interested in all forms of natural sciences and materials science, an interest that ultimately would lead to some of his better-known contributions to science. During Newton's lifetime the study of chemistry was still in its infancy, thereby leading many of his experimental studies to consist of the use of esoteric language and vague terminology more accurately associated with alchemy and occultism. It would be several decades after Newton's death that experiments of stoichiometry under the pioneering works of Antoine Lavoisier were conducted and analytical chemistry, with its associated nomenclature, would come to resemble modern chemistry as we know it today. Much of Newton's writing on alchemy may have been lost in a fire in his laboratory, so the true extent of his work in this area may have been larger than is currently known. Newton also suffered a nervous breakdown during his period of alchemical work, which is thought by some due to the psychological transformation that alchemy was originally designed to induce, though there is also speculation it may have been some form of chemical poisoning (possibly from mercury, lead, or some other substance). Newton's writings suggest that one of the main goals of his alchemy may have been the discovery of The Philosopher's Stone (a material believed to turn base metals into gold), and perhaps to a lesser extent, the discovery of the highly coveted Elixir of Life. Some practices of alchemy were banned in England during Newton's lifetime, due in part to unscrupulous practitioners who would often promise wealthy benefactors unrealistic results in an attempt to swindle them. The English Crown, also fearing the potential devaluation of gold, should The Philosopher's Stone actually be discovered, made penalties for alchemy very severe. In some cases the punishment for unsanctioned alchemy would include the public hanging of an offender on a gilded scaffold while adorned with tinsel and other items. It was for this reason, and the potential scrutiny that he feared from his peers within the scientific community, that Newton may have deliberately left his work on alchemical subjects unpublished. Newton was well known as being highly sensitive to criticism, such as the numerous instances when he was criticized by Robert Hooke, and his admitted reluctance to publish any substantial information regarding Calculus before 1693. A perfectionist by nature, Newton also refrained from publication of material that he felt was incomplete, as evident from a thirty-eight year gap in time from Newton's alleged conception of Calculus in 1666 and its final full publication in 1704, which would ultimately lead to the infamous Newton vs Leibniz Calculus Controversy. In 1936, a collection of Isaac Newton's unpublished works were auctioned by Sotheby's on behalf of Gerard Wallop, 9th Earl of Portsmouth, who had inherited them from Newton's great-niece. Known as the "Portsmouth Papers", this material consisted of three hundred twenty-nine lots of Newton's manuscripts, over a third of which were filled with content that appeared to be alchemical in nature. At the time of Newton's death this material was considered "unfit to publish" by Newton's estate, and consequently fell into obscurity until their somewhat sensational re-emergence in 1936. At the auction many of these documents were purchased by economist John Maynard Keynes, who throughout his life, collected many of Newton's alchemical writings. Much of the Keynes collection later passed to eccentric document collector Abraham Yahuda, who was himself a vigorous collector of Isaac Newton's original manuscripts. Many of the documents collected by Keynes and Yahuda are now in the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. In recent years, several projects have begun to gather, catalogue, and transcribe the fragmented collection of Newton's work on alchemical subjects and make them freely available for on-line access. Two of these are The Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, and The Newton Project supported by the U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Board. In addition, The Jewish National and University Library has published a number of high-quality scanned images of various Newton documents

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