Sir Isaac Newton was an English scientist, mathematician, natural philosopher, theologian and one of the most influential scientists in human history. His Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, is considered to be the most influential book in the history of science, laying the groundwork for most of classical mechanics. In this work, Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of the differential and integral calculus.
Because of the resounding impact of his work, Newton became a scientific icon, much like Albert Einstein after his theory of relativity. Many books, plays, and films focus on Newton or use Newton as a literary device. Newton's stature among scientists remains at the very top rank, as demonstrated by a 2005 survey of scientists in Britain's Royal Society (formerly headed by Newton) asking who had the greater effect on the history of science, Newton or Albert Einstein. Newton was deemed the more influential. In 1999, leading physicists voted Einstein "greatest physicist ever;" Newton was the runner-up.
Newton in visual arts
Newton in poetry
Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said "Let Newton be" and all was light.
English poet Sir John Squire amusingly satirised this:
It could not last; the Devil shouting "Ho!
Let Einstein be!" restored the status quo.
And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.
- Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, William Blake
- A Poem Sacred to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton, James Thomson (poet)
- The Movement of Bodies, Sheenagh Pugh
Newton in literature
Books about Newton
- Maureen McNeil (2007). "Newton as a national hero". Feminist Cultural Studies of Science and Technology. Routledge. pp. 27–43. ISBN 978-0-415-44537-5 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- A. Bowdoin Van Ripper (2002). Science in Popular Culture. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-31822-1 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Mordechai Feingold (2004). The Newtonian Moment: Isaac Newton and the Making of Modern Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-517734-3 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
Books featuring Newton as a character
- Newton and his alchemical experiments play a central role in the 2012 young adult novels The Prince of Soul and The Lighthouse by Fredrik Brounéus.
- A character based on Isaac Newton plays a significant role in The Age of Unreason, a series of four alternate history novels written by American science fiction and fantasy author Gregory Keyes.
- Newton is an important character in The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. A major theme of these novels is the emergence of modern science, with Newton's work in the Principia being prominent. Newton's interest in alchemy and the dispute over the discovery of calculus are prominent plot points, and there is a (fictional) debate on metaphysics between Newton and Gottfried Leibniz moderated by Caroline of Ansbach. The development of an economy based on money and credit is also a major theme, with Newton's time with the Royal Mint and intrigues against counterfeit leading to a Trial of the Pyx.
- Newton is a recurring character in Gotlib's Rubrique-à-Brac series of comics, where he repeatedly discovers gravity or randomly bizarre laws after being (often very heavily) hit on the head by various objects, including the famous apple.
- Newton is the protagonist of the 2002 Philip Kerr novel Dark Matter, set during the Great Recoinage.
- Newton is a major character in Michael White's 2006 novel Equinox.
- 'Sir Isaac Newton' is a newt in The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter.
Books featuring Newton as a plot element
- Newton's alleged participation in the Priory of Sion; Newton's grave in Westminster Abbey provides the crucial clue in the mystery thriller The Da Vinci Code.
- Newton is credited as having invented the pet door (cat flap) as a monumental life achievement in Douglas Adams Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987).
"(..) Sir Isaac Newton, renowned inventor of the milled-edge coin and the catflap!"
"The what?" said Richard.
"The catflap! A device of the utmost cunning, perspicuity and invention. It is a door within a door, you see, a ..."
"Yes," said Richard, "there was also the small matter of gravity."
"Gravity," said Dirk with a slightly dismissive shrug, "yes, there was that as well, I suppose. Though that, of course, was merely a discovery. It was there to be discovered." ...
"You see?" he said dropping his cigarette butt, "They even keep it on at weekends. Someone was bound to notice sooner or later. But the catflap ... ah, there is a very different matter. Invention, pure creative invention. It is a door within a door, you see."
Newton in plays
- Arcadia, Tom Stoppard, includes long discussions of topics of mathematical interest including: Fermat's Last Theorem and Newtonian determinism
- Five Fugues For Isaac Newton, Rae Davis
- Calculus, Carl Djerassi
- Small Infinities, Alan Brody, MIT
- "Character in the play In Good King Charles's Glorious Days - by George Bernard Shaw"
- The Physicists, a satiric drama by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
- Let Newton Be!, a verbatim play constructed from the published and unpublished words of Newton and his immediate contemporaries by Craig Baxter
Newton on TV and radio
- In 1982, Dan Kern played Newton in an episode of Voyagers!, Cleo and The Babe.
- From 1983 until 1998, Newton's Apple ran on PBS and was based around answering science questions for children.
- Trevor Howard guest-starred as Newton in the 1986 mini-series Peter the Great.
- In 1993, John Neville played Newton in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Descent.
- In 1996, Newton was the main villain of the anime The Vision of Escaflowne as Emperor Dornkirk.
- In 1996 and 1997, by Peter Dennis in Star Trek: Voyager in the episodes Death Wish and Darkling.
- In 2007, David Warner portrayed Newton in the Doctor Who audio drama Circular Time. The Fourth Doctor had previously mentioned his acquaintance with Newton in the TV serials Shada and The Five Doctors (the same footage reused).
Newton in films
The Newton-Leibniz Calculus Controversy was the subject of a 2010 film "The Invention of Calculus".
- Me & Isaac Newton, (1999) is a documentary, by Michael Apted, about seven scientists.
- Harpo Marx played Newton in a comic appearance in the film The Story of Mankind.
As an alternative to celebrating the religious holiday Christmas, some atheists, skeptics, and other non-believers have chosen to celebrate December 25 as Newtonmas. Celebrants send cards with "Reasons Greetings!" printed inside, and exchange boxes of apples and science-related items as gifts. The celebration may have had its origin in a meeting of the Newton Association at Christmas 1890 to talk, distribute gifts, and share laughter and good cheer. The name Newtonmas can be attributed to the Skeptics Society, which needed an alternative name for its Christmas party. Another name for this holiday is Gravmas (also spelt Gravmass or Grav-mass) which is an abbreviation of "gravitational mass" due to Newton's Theory of Gravitation.
"25 December is the birthday of one of the truly great men ever to walk the earth. His achievements might justly be celebrated wherever his truths hold sway. And that means from one end of the universe to the other. Happy Newton Day!"
Newton's birthday was December 25 under the Old Style Julian Calendar used in Protestant England at the time, but was January 4 under the New Style Gregorian Calendar used simultaneously in Catholic Europe. The period between has been proposed for a holiday season called "10 Days of Newton" to commemorate this.
- "Newton beats Einstein in polls of scientists and the public". The Royal Society. 23 November 2005.
- "Einstein "greatest physicist ever;" Newton runner-up". BBC News. 29 November 1999.
- Isaac Newton, Blake, William, Web Gallery of Art
- J. Robert Barth (2003). Romanticism and Transcendence: Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the Religious Imagination. University of Missouri Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-8262-1453-9 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- "HPSC 109. Lecture 15. The Romantic Reaction 1: Romanticism and the Revolt Against Newtonianism". Retrieved 2010-02-02.
- James Thomson. "A Poem Sacred to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton". PoemHunter.com. Retrieved 2010-02-02.
- Carol Rumens (26 January 2009). "Poem of the week: The Movement of Bodies". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-02-02.
- Plays, MathFiction
- Tei, Andrew (2002-07-05). "Anime Expo Friday Report". AnimeOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2008-07-23. "Q) Where did the idea to use Isaac Newton as a model for Dornkirk (leader of Zaibach) come from? A) Kawamori answers by saying that Newton was an alchemist and wrote a book on alchemy. Kawamori came up with the theory that Newton discovered the "power" [of Atlantis]. He designed Dornkirk as not a bad guy."
- Me & Isaac Newton, imdb.com
- Me & Isaac Newton, Monsters at Play
- Winston, Kimberly (2011-12-16). "On Dec. 25, atheists celebrate a different birthday.". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-12-22.
- Judson, Olivia (2008-12-23). "The 10 Days of Newton". The New York Times.
- Patricia Fara, David Money (2004). "Isaac Newton and Augustan Anglo-Latin poetry". Studies in History and Philosophy of Science A 35 (3): 549–571. doi:10.1016/j.shpsa.2004.06.007.