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Newton, Moonlighting as a Conjurer of Chemicals

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  • terry foreman
    Sir Isaac Newton was a towering genius in the history of science, he knew he was a genius, and he didn’t like wasting his time. Born on Dec. 25, 1642, the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 11, 2010
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      Sir Isaac Newton was a towering genius in the history of science, he
      knew he was a genius, and he didn’t like wasting his time. Born on
      Dec. 25, 1642, the great English physicist and mathematician rarely
      socialized or traveled far from home. He didn’t play sports or a
      musical instrument, gamble at whist or gambol on a horse. He dismissed
      poetry as “a kind of ingenious nonsense,” and the one time he attended
      an opera he fled at the third act. Newton was unmarried, had no known
      romantic liaisons and may well have died, at the age of 85, with his
      virginity intact. “I never knew him to take any recreation or
      pastime,” said his assistant, Humphrey Newton, “thinking all hours
      lost that were not spent on his studies.”

      No, it wasn’t easy being Newton. Not only did he hammer out the
      universal laws of motion and gravitational attraction, formulating
      equations that are still used today to plot the trajectories of space
      rovers bound for Mars; and not only did he discover the spectral
      properties of light and invent calculus. Sir Isaac had a whole other
      full-time career, a parallel intellectual passion that he kept largely
      hidden from view but that rivaled and sometimes surpassed in intensity
      his devotion to celestial mechanics. Newton was a serious alchemist,
      who spent night upon dawn for three decades of his life slaving over a
      stygian furnace in search of the power to transmute one chemical
      element into another.

      Newton’s interest in alchemy has long been known in broad outline, but
      the scope and details of that moonlighting enterprise are only now
      becoming clear, as science historians gradually analyze and publish
      Newton’s extensive writings on alchemy — a million-plus words from the
      Newtonian archives that had previously been largely ignored.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/science/12newton.html?ref=science?src=dayp&pagewanted=all
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