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- Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer
- Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer by Michael White, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
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ISBN 13: 9780201483017
Synopsis About this title Unknown to all but a few, Newton was a practicing alchemist who dabbled with the occult, a tortured, obsessive character who searched for an understanding of the universe by whatever means possible. Review : Science writer Michael White's subtitle, The Last Sorcerer , echoes John Maynard Keynes's assertion in that Isaac Newton was not the Olympian rationalist portrayed by his worshipful early biographers.
Buy New View Book. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought. Stock Image. Hannah took the name Ayscough-Newton.
The winter of that year was bleak both for the Newtons and for the country as a whole — England had slid into a savage civil war. His queen, Henrietta Maria, adored by her doting husband but loathed by many of his subjects, had been sent to Europe for her own safety.
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During the summer and autumn of , what had begun as petty skirmishes and political and religious wrangling developed into full-scale civil war, with the royalists camped first at York and then at Oxford. Within the space of a few years, England had been transformed from a nation at peace, existing beyond the turmoil of the Thirty Years War which had ravaged mainland Europe since , into a nation in which brother had taken up arms against brother and lifelong friendships had been shattered by the taking of sides in the dispute — for the King or for Parliament.
Most biographers of Newton, from Stukeley to recent times, have assumed that the Newtons had royalist leanings. This may have been so, but the sides in the Civil War were not defined clearly along class lines. There were many noblemen who fought on the side of Parliament, and many of the lower orders supported the King. Furthermore, the many complex reasons for the dispute included not only political preoccupations but religious issues, which for some would have been more important. For many historians, the Civil War had its foundations in the decisions of Henry VIII and his immediate descendants and was as much to do with the ideological clash between Rome and the Church of England as with the position and powers of Parliament.
The political views of the Newtons during the Civil War were not recorded. For all the turmoil the Civil War wrought on the people of England, at the time Hannah Newton was far more concerned with immediate problems caused by a domestic tragedy a few days before the battle of Edgehill: her husband, Isaac, had died leaving her heavily pregnant. What caused his death is unclear. He had just turned thirty-six and appears to have been ill for some time beforehand.
Very little is known of Isaac senior. He was illiterate, but seventeenth-century farmers had little real need for learning, and he left the estate pretty much as he inherited it; Hannah and her child were well provided for. During those miserable days between the death of her husband and the birth of their child, we can only assume that Hannah did her best to maintain the farm and to prepare herself for the coming event. She went into labour late on Christmas Eve and almost certainly gave birth in the room in which the child was conceived — the bedroom to the left of the top of the stairs.
Sometime soon after 2 a. This may have been true, but he was fond of mythologising his childhood and, for complex reasons, he encouraged the idea that there had been something miraculous about his birth.
Chapter 1 Desertion
Also, Newton quite naturally did everything he could to pre-empt any rumours that he may have been born illegitimate. The records do not give an exact date for the marriage of Isaac and Hannah, but an unkind analysis, ignoring the declared prematurity, would conclude that Newton was conceived out of wedlock. Providence, however, disappointed their fears, and that frail tenement which seemed scarcely able to imprison its immortal mind, was destined to enjoy a vigorous maturity, and to survive even the average term of human existence.
Newton would have strongly approved of such a description, which adds still more weight to the self-image he so much treasured. We know from a tiny scrap of parchment unearthed by Stukeley that the baby Isaac was baptised on 1 January After this there is a three-year period of blankness. As the Civil War raged the length and breadth of the country, Hannah and her son continued to live at the manor house.
Their employees tilled the land and carried out the annual lambing, the shearing, the milking and the feeding, while Hannah dealt with the many bureaucratic aspects of the business and supervised sales of animals and the maintenance of farm stocks.
Hannah and her son were not rich, but they were comfortably off. During the s, a workman could expect to earn in the region of one shilling and sixpence a week. In June of that disastrous year for the royalists, his troops suffered their worst military defeat at the battle of Naseby. England was still far from regicide, but the forces that, four years later, would lead to this singular event were already coalescing.
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Lincolnshire continued to pass through the upheaval relatively unscathed, making Woolsthorpe a haven of solitude and anonymity for advancing or retreating armies. Throughout the Civil War, troops were away from their garrisons for months at a time and relied upon the hospitality of town and country folk alike; stories of villages and towns refusing to accommodate troops of either side are rare.
Isaac would have seen soldiers of both sides passing through the village, and there may have been occasions when troops stayed in the houses beyond the fields of his little sanctuary, or even at the manor itself.
Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer
If Hannah accommodated royalists or Roundheads, no record has been passed on to us, and Newton never mentioned such a thing, but it would not have been surprising. The worst of the fighting was over by the summer of , but for Isaac a far more significant event had transformed his life. At the beginning of the year, soon after his third birthday, his mother had decided to remarry. Barnabas Smith was the rector of North Witham, a hamlet just over a mile from Woolsthorpe.
Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer by Michael White, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
Little is known about him, but what is known does not paint a pretty picture. He was successful academically but seems to have displayed only a passing interest in learning. The son of a wealthy landowner, he attended Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated in He collected books, but by all accounts did not often read them; he made a half-hearted effort to start a notebook in which he intended collecting his thoughts on a variety of theological subjects, but gave up after a few pages.
The books — some of them — may have led Newton into serious collecting himself and could well have introduced him to a number of the theological subjects which later preoccupied him to and beyond the point of obsession. Smith was sixty-three years old when the widowed Hannah Newton first caught his eye.
Hannah was around thirty. There are no surviving official records giving her exact date of birth. By then he had been rector at North Witham for over thirty-five years, the rectorship having been bought for him by his father in as the source of a convenient annuity. For Smith the rectorship was little more than a dalliance. During his rectorship, he certainly appears to have sailed calmly through the upheavals in Church doctrine created by the Civil War.
Between the start of the first Civil War and the end of the second, many Anglican clergymen chose banishment from their living over conformity to the constantly changing tide of theological fashion. Smith, however, went with the flow.