Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727) might seem an incongruous inclusion in a site dealing with the end of the world but he does have a place here. I had been developing what I called 'the failure graph' and I was looking to see if that type of graph had a technical name. I knew that if I called it a Bright Simpson recursive, that some luminary would note that Bright Simpson recursives were only used in theoretical calculations or whatever. I knew the graph as a 'hockey stick' graph and was merely hoping that it had a grander name. It certainly had a grander heritage!. The first example I came across was Newtons Law of Cooling represented by a differential equation by Eular. I had it keyed into Excel within 5 minutes and spent the rest of the evening having fun playing with it. I was little downhearted because I naturally thought that I could not use Newton as a proof that we were all going down the pan, after all, he had never suggested that. Looking at much of his work, the theme recurs though, the same graph shape over and over again. The acceleration of a falling object was the mirror image of the cooling of a liquid. I knew that I would be dealing very heavily with Darwin later in my project but with interests in physics, my world had been built on what Newton had done. This was my work though and not Newton's, it would make no difference to the esteem I have for him.
Newton was already of interest to me for reasons other than his scientific contribution, as was Einstein and Sir Henry Cavendish amongst others. My interest stemmed from the assertions that these men had the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome and I had recently had my own diagnosis of AS. Reading about people with AS, gave me an opportunity to see how neuro typicals described them. Newton certainly was quirky, delivering a lecture to a hall where no one has attended because you are a boring speaker is a little quirky. To me it seems like the least you can do in the circumstances. Newton obviously knew the merits of what he was talking about and had not deliberately stage managed the event merely to have a quiet day. For Newton, I am sure, delivering the lectures was about doing what had been agreed. So the students didn't bother to turn up! so what! it was a good lecture.
Newton though, was not just a scientist. He devoted much more of his efforts to alchemy than he ever did to science. This trait in early science is not without some basis, after all, alchemy was the platform from which science was launched. Alchemy was about the search for these things that the alchemists knew were either possible or should be possible, it was not just about transmuting lead into gold and formulating the elixir of life. One has to ask, where did they get the notion that lead could be turned into gold or that any of these things were possible. The metals are close on the periodic table, perhaps Newton was connected to science in a different way than we see him being connected. This business of just working away until you get something is something that is seen a lot in early science. How, I would have appreciated having Newtons ear during the early 1700's.
I have always been fascinated by looking at the ways that people invented things or discovered things. Some of it could almost be accidental. Einsteins equation was not developed as a recipe for an atomic weapon, it was some time after that his friend Leo Tsiler informed him of that potential.
Peter Ackroyd recently wrote an excelent biography in his Brief Lives series simply called Newton, it is published by Chatto and Windus and priced at £12.99 It is an excellent read. .
(I did write quite a bit in longhand for Newton but like a lot of stuff, I cannot lay my hands on it right now. I must press on with the project and I might add the whole of the longhand stuff just for interest if and when I find it