Over the last thirty years or so, historians have been grappling with complex reality of Newton’s life as a scholar, vs. the myth that has grown up…

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September 9, 2020
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September 9, 2020

Over the last thirty years or so, historians have been grappling with complex reality of Newton’s life as a scholar, vs. the myth that has grown up…

1.Over the last thirty years or so, historians have been grappling with complex reality of Newton’s life as a scholar, vs. the myth that has grown up around him. Based on the biographical encyclopedia entry by Stephen Snobelen, what is one way that Newton’s interpretation of his own work differed from the views others ascribed to him later? What do you think accounts for these difference? That is, why do you think his later biographers presented Newton in this way?

2.According to the Snobelen piece, why was Newton so committed to the inductive method? Based on what others later wrote about the inductive method (as described in this article), why did they see it as so superior to what came before?

3.What are two reasons often given for Newton’s unwillingness to publish his papers, according to the paper by Gucciardini? Based on Gucciardini’s explanations which of these four (or which combination) do you find find most compelling and why?

4.What is “scribal publication”, based on the reading? What in particular might have made this approach appealing to Newton?

5.What finally seems to push Newton to go beyond scribal publication?

6.A section of this article talks in some detail about how Newton revises some of his earlier mathematical work just before publication. If you haven’t taken calculus (or don’t want to remember it) the details here are likely a bit obscure. Stepping back from those details though, and looking for the big picture, ultimately, what would you say is one basic, underlying reason that Newton is re-editing his work?

7.Today’s learning activity is a visit to the The Newton Project (see Learning Activities for today’s class.) I asked for you to look at Hooke’s letter objecting to Newton’s theory of optics. Keeping in mind that I don’t expect you to be an expert on optics, what, at the end of the day, was Hooke’s basic objection to Newton’s experiment? 

8.In this course, we will be exploring the ways that science gradually grows beyond small groups of practitioners to be more widely accepted. Newton, it seems, was given to secrecy and wanted badly to control the circulation of knowledge. Based on what you can discern from the readings, what are two examples of practices that seemed to encourage wider (even if only a bit wider) circulation of scientific knowledge/hypotheses in this period?

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Over the last thirty years or so, historians have been grappling with complex reality of Newton’s life as a scholar, vs. the myth that has grown up… was first posted on September 9, 2020 at 5:35 am.
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