« ПредишнаНапред »
tion. It is hardly polite to offer to a It appears that, not satisfied with his Prince such a piece of slip-slop as “it water - clock, he had constructed anis from the trenches of science alone other time-measurer, by driving a numthat war can be successfully waged." ber of pegs into the walls and roofs of
Passing by this little mistake, how- the school buildings, so that their shaever, let us come to the life itself. dows marked the hours ; and this was
Isaac Newton was born on Christ. long known and used in the neigh. mas Day, 1642, in the manor house of bourhood under the name of « Isaac's Woolsthorpe, near the village of Col- dial.” He also carved two regular sterthorpe, six miles south of Gran- sun-dials on the walls of his own house tham. His father died before he was at Woolsthorpe. born, and he himself seems to have In addition to mechanical inventions, come prematurely into the world, and he cultivated the arts both of painting was scarcely expected to survive in it. and poetry, his room being hung with The little manor* which belonged to pictures drawn by himself-some cohis father had a rental of only £30 pied from prints and others from life. per annum, and his mother, whose No authentic specimen of his verses, name was Ayscough, had another little however, has come down to us. estate close by, of about £50 per During the seven years he spent at annum. Before he was four years old, school at Grantham, he appears to his mother was married again to the have fallen in love with a Miss Storey, Rev. Barnabas Smith, rector of North and had he had the means in early Witham. At the age of twelve he life, it is probable that he would after. went to the Free-School at Grantham, wards bave married her. He retained where he was at first very inattentive, a great esteem for her in subsequent and very low in the school, until hay- years, even after her second marriage, ing fought with and beaten a boy who and assisted both her and her family stood above him in the class, he was in some pecuniary embarrassments. induced to try whether he could not In 1656 his stepfather, the Rev. B. master him there also. His faculties, Smith, died, and his mother returned which had probably hitherto been pre- to Woolsthorpe, bringing with her a occupied with his own thoughts rather half-brother and two half-sisters to than dormant, thus once roused and Newton. He was then, at the age of set in action, he soon not only rose a- fifteen, taken from school, and set to head of his particular opponent, but of cultivate the farm, and sell the produce all the rest of the school.
at the market. This employment did Mechanical inventions seem at this not at all suit his disposition, as may be time to have been his principal taste. supposed, and it was shortly decided, He made a working model of a wind. by the advice of his uncle, the Rev. mill that was being erected in the W. Ayscough, that he should be preneighbourhood. He also constructed pared to enter the University of Cama water-clock out of an old box, giving bridge. lle returned, therefore, to it a dial-plate, on which the index was school, where he remained till his nineturned by a piece of wood, that either teenth year. Some vision of his future « fell or rose by water dropping." A fame seems to have passed before the mechanical carriage having four wheels, eyes of his old schoolmaster, as we which was moved by a handle or winch may gather from the following pas. wrought by the person who sat in it,
sage:is also enumerated among his constructions. Sir David mentions it as a “ The day in which he quitted Grantham curious fact, that Leibnitz, the rival of was one of much interest not only to himself Newton, laboured at similar inventions. but to his school fellows and his venerable
* Sir David gives us a sketch of this house. It appears to be one of those quiet little country houses formerly occupied by the substantial ycomanry of England, men who farmed their own estates from generation to generation. These are mostly now absorbed into the ranks of mere farm- houses, and are occupied by yearly tenants. The class of small proprietors still lingers among the mountains of Cumberland, where they are known as "statesmen," and to some extent, perhaps, among the “dalesmen" of Yorkshire. In other parts of the country individuals, few and far between, are to be found, though we have heard of some who have no "title-deeds ” to their little property, which has descended from father to son, from times anterior to the invention of such contrivances.
teacher. Mr. Conduit has rocorded it as as a mistake in his mathematical studies; a tradition in Grantham, that on that day and on a future occasion he expressed to Dr. the good old man, with the pride of a father, Pemberton his regret that he had applied placed his favourite pupil in the most con- himself to the works of Descartes, and other spicuous part of the school, and having, algebraic writers, before he bad considered with tears in his eyes, made a speech in the Elements of Euclid with that attention praise of his character and talents, held him which so excellent a writer deserved.' up to the scholars as a proper object of their " The study of Descartes' geometry seems love and imitation. We have not heard to have inspired Newton with a love of the that the schoolmaster of Grantham lived subject, and to have introduced him to the long enough to feel a just pride in the higher mathematics. In a small common. transcendent reputation of his pupil ; but place book, bearing on the 7th page the many of the youth to whom his affectionate date of Jan. 1663–4, there are several articles counsel was addressed, may have had fre- on angular sections, and the squaring of quent opportunities of glorying in having curves and crooked lines that may be been the school-fellows of Sir Isaac New- squared,' several calculations about musical ton." - Vol. I. p. 18.
notes ;-geometrical propositions from Francis
Vieta and Schooten; - annotations out of He was admitted as a sub-sizar at Wallis's Arithmetic of Infinites, together with Trinity College, Cambridge, on the observations on Refraction,-on the grinding 5th of June, 1661, and matriculated of spherical optic glasses,'-on the errors sizar on the Sth of July. We have
of lenses, and the method of rectifying them, little record of Newton's undergra
and on the extraction of all kinds of roots, duate life at Cambridge, but the fol
particularly those in affected powers.'"
Vol. I, pp. 21-23. lowing passage is an interesting one:“ Before Newton left Woolsthorpe, his
Sir David gives us the following ac. uncle had given him a copy of Sanderson's count of the well-known story of the Logic, which he seems to have studied so falling of the apple:thoroughly, that when he afterwards attended the lectures on that work, he found that he " It was doubtless in the same remarkable knew more of it than his tutor. Finding year 1666, or perhaps in the autumn of him so far advanced, his tutor intimated to 1665, that Newton's mind was first directed him that he was about to read Kepler's to the subject of Gravity. He appears to Optics to some Gentleman Commoners, and liave left Cambridge some time before the that he might attend the Readings if he 8th of August, 1665, when the College was pleased. Newton immediately studied the dismissed' on account of the Plague, and book at home, and when his tutor gave him it was therefore in the autumn of that year, notice that his Lectures upon it were to and not in that of 1666, that the apple is commence, he was surprised to learn that it said to have fallen from the tree at Woolshad been already mastered by his pupil. thorpe, and suggested to Newton the idea of
" About the same time probably he bought gravity. When sitting alone in the garden, a book on Judicial Astrology at Stourbridge and speculating on the power of gravity, it fair, and in the course of perusing it he came occurred to him that as the same power by to a figure of the Heavens, which he could which the apple fell to the ground, was not not understand without a previous know- sensibly diminished at the greatest distance ledge of trigonometry. Ile therefore pur- from the centre of the earth to which we can chased an English Euclid, with an index reach, neither at the summits of the loftiest of all the problems at the end of it, and spires, nor on the tops of the highest mounhaving turned to two or three which he tains, it might extend to the moon and rethought likely to remove his difficulties, he tain her in her orbit, in the same manner as found the truths which they enunciated so it bends into a curve a stone or a cannon self-evident, that he expressed his astonish- ball, when projected in a straight line from ment that any person should have taken the the surface of the earth. If the moon was trouble of writing a demonstration of them. thus kept in her orbit by gravitation to the He therefore threw aside Euclid as a trifling earth, or, in other words, its attraction, it book,' and set himself to the study of was equally probable, he thought, that the Descartes' Geometry, where problems not so planets were kept in their orbits by gravisimple seem to have baffled his ingenuity. tating towards the sun. Kepler had disEven after reading a few pages, he got be- covered the great law of the planetary yond his depth, and laid aside the work ; motions, that the squares of their periodic and he is said to have resumed it again and times were as the cubes of their distances again, alternately retreating and advancing, from the sun, and hence Newton drew the till he was master of the whole, without important conclusion that the force of gravity having received any assistance. The neglect or attraction, by which the planets were rewhich he had shown of the elementary tained in their orbits, varied as the square truths of geometry ho afterwards regarded of their distances from the sun. Knowing the force of gravity at the earth's surface, he supposed colour not to be innate in was, therefore, led to compare it with the
light, but produced by the action of force exhibited in the actual motion of the the bodies which reflect or refract it; moon, in a circular orbit; but having as
whereas Newton proved that "the sumed that the distance of the moon from
modification of light from which colours the earth was equal to sixty of the earth's
take their origin is innate in light semidiameters, he found that the force by which the moon was drawn from its rectili
itself, and arises neither from reflecneal path in a second of time was only 13.9
tion nor refraction, nor from the quafeet, whereas at the surface of the earth it
lities or any other conditions of bodies was 16'1 in a second. This great discrep
whatever, and that it cannot be deancy between his theory and what he then stroyed or in any way changed by considered to be the fact, induced him to them." abandon the subject, and pursue other studies Sir David Brewster twice mentions with which he had been previously occu- Stourbridge Fair in connexion with pied."-Vol. I. pp. 25-27.
Newton. In the first instance, a book
bought there set him to study trigoOn the disappearance of the plague, nometry, and, in the second, a prism he returned to Cambridge, and was there procured induced him to experi. elected Fellow of Trinity on the 1st ment on light, and thus commence his of October, 1667, taking his Master discoveries
in optics. To a Cambridge of Arts degree on the 16th of March, man of the present day, there is some1668. He was elected Lucasian Pro- thing remarkably whimsical in these fessor of Mathematics on the 29th of associations, for though it was doubt. October, 1669. These are the most less formerly a great commercial fair, important external events of this period its present reputation is of rather á of Newton's life. The real life of dubious kind. It would sound rather Newton, however, was within. The odd to a Dublin man to be told that events of greatest importance, of some of the profounder studies of the greatest interest, and greatest value to Fellows of our own Trinity College the world, were the thoughts, the re- took their origin from any investigaflections, and the discoveries of his tion, made in consequence of a visit to mind, events the date of which he only Donnybrook :could be conscious of, and which, in few instances, he would trouble himself
"After our author had purchased his glass to recollect or record.
prism at Stourbridge Fair, he made use of it The first great subject of investiga
in the following manner. Having made a
hole in his window-shutter, and darkened tion and discovery on which the mind
the room, he admitted a ray of the sun's of Newton employed itself, was the
light, which after refraction at the two surnature of light. It seems appropriate faces of the prism, exhibited on the opposite enough, that he who was to throw so wall what is called the Solar or Prismatic vast and so steady a light upon the Spectrum. This spectrum was an elongated constitution of the universe, should image of the sun about five times as long as first teach us what that light itself was, it was broad, and consisted of seven different by the action of which upon our
colours, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, senses we could alone become conscious
Indigo, and Violet. 'It was at first,' says of the existence of the bodies of which
Newton, a very pleasing divertisement to the universe is composed. In our
view the vivid and intense colours produced days, when the nature of light and
thereby ;' but this pleasure was immediately
succeeded by surprise at various phenomena colour is more or less familiar to us which were inconsistent with the received all, it is difficult even in imagination laws of refraction. The extravagant dis. to throw ourselves back into the condi- proportion between the length of the spectrum tion of mind of even the profoundest and its breadth,' excited him to a more than philosophers of former times, to whom ordinary curiosity of examining from whence this matter was unknown. It is only it might proceed. He could scarcely think by reading, and attempting to under
that the various thickness of the glass, or stand the laboured and complicated
the termination with shadow or darkness dissertations of former philosophers,
could have any influence on light to produce that we are able to form an adequate
such an effect; yet he thought it not amiss
first to examine these circumstances, and he appreciation of the clearness, and
therefore tried what would happen by transtruth, and beauty of Newton's expla- mitting light through parts of the glass of nations. All previous authors, except different thickness, or through holes in the Isaac Vossius, and he only by guess, window of different sizes, or by setting the prism without, so that the light might pass and five wide. After the lapse of yet through it and be refraeted before it was another fifty years, Ireland has had the terminated by the hole; but he found none honour of still further perfecting these of these circumstances material. The fashion
instruments, through the labours of her of the colours was in all these cases the
noble son, Lord Rosse, who has since same. " Newton then suspected that by some
worthily occupied Newton's chair as
President of the Royal Society of Lonunevenness of the glass, or other accidental irregularity, the colours might be thus dila
don. Sir David gives woodcuts and deted. In order to try this he took another scriptions of the magnificent instrument prism, and placed it in such a manner that at Parsonstown, which has a speculum the light passing through them both might six feet in diameter, having an area of be refracted contrariwise, and thus returned surface more than double that of Hersinto the path from which the first prism had chel's, and a focal distance, and consediverted it, for by this means he thought quently a tube, of fifty feet in length. that the regular effects of the first prism
We have no space to follow Sir would be destroyed by the second prism, and
David through the history of Newthe irregular ones more augmented by the multiplicity of refractions. The result was,
ton's subsequent experiments and disthat the light which by the first prism was
coveries in light and colours, and the diffused into an oblong form was reduced by
objections to his theory, and attacks the second prism into a circular one with as
which were made upon him, in consemuch regularity as when it did not pass quence of their publication. The conthrough them, so that whatever was the troversies in which Newton thus found cause of the length of the image it did not himself involved were eminently disarise from any irregularity in the prism."- tasteful to him. So much was this the Vol. I. pp. 39-41.
case, that he had at one time resolved
never to publish anything new again ; After trying many experiments, he and this was one reason, probably, why at length arrived at the grand conclu- he allowed his mathematical discoveries sion, that the greater length of the on the subject of “fluxions” to lie by spectrum was caused by the fact, that him for twenty or thirty years, without light was not homogeneous, but that any formal publication. If so, the prewhite light consisted of many variously- caution eminently defeated its intended coloured rays of different refrangibility, end, as this retention was productive the red rays being least bent out of of one of the bitterest contests, in which their straight course in passing through he was compelled to engage in after the prism, while the violet were most life, with his great but disingenuous bent, or refracted, the intermediate rival, Leibnitz. colours taking their places, according In his letters, about this time, we to their intermediate degrees of flexure. meet with the following passages :
Such is a simple account of those remarkable experiments and observa- “I intend to be no farther solicitous about tions which have been fruitful in re- matters of philosophy; and therefore I hope sults up to the present day, and the you will not take it ill if you never find me whole benefit of which we have, in all
doing anything more in that kind; or rather probability, not yet received.
that you will favour me in my determinaThey led directly to the construction
tion, by preventing, so far as you can conof reflecting telescopes, of which one,
veniently, any objections, or other philosoconstructed by Newton, is now in pos
phical letters, that may concern me."
"I was so persecuted with discussions session of the Royal Society, and they
arising out of my theory of light, that I led, after an interval of eighty or blamed my own imprudence for parting ninety years, to the improvement of with so substantial a blessing as my quiet, refracting telescopes, by the persever- to run after a shadow." ance of Mr. Dollond.
“I see I have made myself a slave to phiThe small reflecting telescope of
losophy ; but if I get free of Mr. Linus's Newton was followed, after an interval
business, I will resolutely bid adieu to it of fifty years, by the larger ones of
eternally, excepting what I do for my pri. Mr. Hadley, the first of which was six
vate satisfaction, or leave to come out after feet long, and magnified 200 times.
me; for I see a man must resolve to put
out nothing new, or become a slave to deThese again were succeeded, in an- fend it." other half century, by those of Sir William Herschel, the largest and most Controversy is in itself painful celebrated of which was forty feet long enough, unless scrupulously divested of all feeling of personal enmity, and of his finding among Newton's papers of all desire for individual superiority. a curious “ Scheme for establishing the He who, in matters of science, fights Royal Society,” to bring forward his solely for victory, should be left to beat own views on a very interesting subthe air, and tire himself with his own ject. efforts. He who makes an attack, with This scheme proposes that there the desire of wounding, or injuring, or should be five committees, each conannoying any man, should be repres- sisting of two or three paid members, sed by the common voice of society as who shall be obliged to attend each of a common nuisance - without much the meetings. He would have these regard to the good or bad foundation committees to consist of members on which his attack is based. Such skilled in men, however acute in intellect, are 1. Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, generally small and contracted in mo- Mechanics, &c. ral and social views, and mean and 2. Philosophy relating to the Heapetty in disposition. Still, controversy vens, the Atmosphere, and the Surface between principals, however annoying of the Earth, viz.-Optics, Astronoto one or other of the parties, is some- my, Geography, Navigation, and Metimes inevitable. Were it confined to teorology: the principals, however, it would pro- 3. Philosophy relating to Animals. bably die out in almost all cases, if it 4. Philosophy relating to Vegetadid not issue in amicable relations. bles. But when controversy becomes public, 5. Mineralogy, Chemistry, &c., and it almost invariably happens that one the Causes of Subterraneous Caves, or both of the disputants is surround- Rocks, Shells, Waters, Petrifactions, ed by a number of men, greatly in- Exhalations, Damps, Heats, Fires, and ferior to either, who join as partisans Earthquakes, and the Rising and Fallin the battle. This pack of yelping ing of Mountains and Islands; in fact, puppies create excitement by their wbat we should now call Geology. clamour, and heat by their busy mo. To these committees he would refer tion. They carry tales, distortions, all books, letters, &c., on their several misrepresentations, and magnifications subjects, and would have vacancies in of the truth, or pure, unadulterated these paid fellowships filled up by eleclies and inventions, rumours and re- tion from the main body. ports made current by their endorse- On this subject, Sir David has the ment, to the ears of the principal par following passage :ties engaged, until each is led to believe the other a scoundrel, only deserving “ It is very evident, from this interesting of bad treatment.
document, that Newton was desirous of conTraces of this action can be detected verting the Royal Society into an institution throughout the controversies in which like that of the Academy of Sciences in Newton became so reluctantly engaged, Paris ; but we have not been able to learn although we would be far from desig- that he ever communicated this plan either natir by the terms just used, many
to the Society itself, or to any of its mem
bers. During the last twenty years, and of the partisans of Newton and his op
long before we could have known the views ponents. Still no man's judgment or fairness is to be trusted when once he
of so competent a judge, we have cherished
the same desire, and embraced every opporbecomes a partisan ; and it is one of the
tunity of pressing it upon the notice of the most evil effects of controversy, that public. Several years ago we communicated the best and most genial natures are Sir Isaac Newton's scheme to Sir Robert apt to become corrupted and embit- Peel, and it was so far carried into effect by tered, the most honest and impartial the establishment of the Museum of Practiminds warped and biassed, by its ac- cal Geology, which is neither more nor less tion.
than an enlargement of the Mineralogical, It was in consequence of his reflect. Geological, and Chemical sections of an ing telescope that Newton became Academy of Sciences, or a national Institute.
The services of all the members of this imknown to the Royal Society, and was
portant body are of course at the entire diselected a fellow of that body on Janu
posal of the state, though its members are ary 11, 1672. He soon afterwards
frequently employed in other duties than communicated to them his optical dis- those which strictly belong to their office. coveries.
If mineralogy, geology, and chemistry, thereSir David Brewster takes advantage fore, have obtained a national establishment