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The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton's Manuscripts
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Sarah Dry
The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton's Manuscripts by Sarah Dry  at Abbey's Bookshop,

The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton's Manuscripts

Sarah Dry


Oxford University Press

British & Irish history;
Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900;
Mathematics & Sciences;
History of science


256 pages

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When Isaac Newton died in 1727 without a will, he left behind a wealth of papers that, when examined, gave his followers and his family a deep sense of unease. Some of what they contained was wildly heretical and alchemically obsessed, hinting at a Newton altogether stranger and less palatable than the one enshrined in Westminster Abbey as the paragon of English rationality. These manuscripts had the potential to undermine not merely Newton's reputation, but that of the scientific method he embodied. They were immediately suppressed as unfit to be printed, and, aside from brief, troubling glimpses spread across centuries, the papers would remain hidden from sight for more than seven generations.

In The Newton Papers, Sarah Dry illuminates the tangled history of these private writings over the course of nearly three hundred years, from the long span of Newton's own life into the present day. The writings, on subjects ranging from secret alchemical formulas to impassioned rejections of the Holy Trinity, would eventually come to light as they moved through the hands of relatives, collectors, and scholars. The story of their disappearance, dispersal, and rediscovery is populated by a diverse cast of characters who pursued and possessed the papers, from economist John Maynard Keynes to controversial Jewish Biblical scholar Abraham Yahuda. Dry's captivating narrative moves between these varied personalities, depicting how, as they chased the image of Newton through the thickets of his various obsessions, these men became obsessed themselves with the allure of defining the true Newton. Dry skillfully accounts for the ways with which Newton's pursuers have approached his papers over centuries. Ultimately, The Newton Papers shows how Newton has been made and re-made throughout history by those seeking to reconcile the cosmic contradictions of an extraordinarily complex man.

By:   Sarah Dry
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 210mm,  Width: 140mm,  Spine: 18mm
Weight:   272g
ISBN:   9780190931582
ISBN 10:   0190931582
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   February 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Prologue: Keynes at the sale1. The Death of Newton2. The Inheritors3. Petrifying Newton4. The Madness of Newton5. The Meanness of Newton6. Getting to Know the Knowers7. Wrangling with Newton8. Newton Divided9. English Books, American Buyers10. The Dealers11. The Sotheby Sale12. The Revealed Newton13. The Newton Industry14. The Search for UnityEpilogue: The Ultimate Value

Sarah Dry is the author of Curie: A Life and has also written on epidemics, global health, and the history of meteorology. She is a former research fellow at the London School of Economics and the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

[W]e find in Sarah Dry's fascinating book not only a life and times of Newton's papers personified, but also several smaller biographies of the flesh-and-blood characters involved in the story of these papers, who prove to be every bit as interesting and colorful as the manuscripts they sought, preserved, and studied. - Renaissance Quarterly In this brilliantly crafted and absorbing book, Sarah Dry traces the fate of Newton's manuscripts, through the hands of disciples and enemies, collectors and businessmen, scholars and eccentrics, from familiar heroes of the sciences, including David Brewster, George Stokes, John Maynard Keynes and Albert Einstein, to the lesser-known figures who played such decisive roles in the life of these invaluable documents. The Newton Papers works its appeal both as an indispensable guide to the making of a towering reputation and to the fascinating energies of cunning detective work through the centuries. - Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge A delightful exploration of Newton's wandering manuscripts' legacy, with an unexpected bonus: a fascinating and insightful account of Sir Isaac's evolving reputation. - Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and author of The Book Nobody Read Research into Newton's papers has not only transformed our sense of him, but did much to boost the field of history of science. Sarah Dry's book makes us appreciate the twists and turns by which the papers came down to us, and in the process offers a fascinating account of how attitudes about what can be learned from such collections of private, unpublished material have evolved over the centuries. - George E. Smith, Tufts University The fascinating saga of Newton's Papers illuminates a battle waged across several centuries over the legacy and image of England's greatest man of science. At stake was evidence, truth, rationality, religious belief, national pride, but also the physical ownership of Newton's material and intellectual remnants. Sarah Dry has crafted a wonderful canvas, stretching across several continents and peopled by myriad scientists and popularizers, collectors and politicians, aristocratic families and impoverished relatives. This is a beautifully written book, sure to please and captivate the connoisseur and novice alike. - Diana Kormos-Buchwald, The Einstein Papers Project, California Institute of Technology

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