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Monday, March 06, 2017

Isaac Newton 1666


Today's selection -- from 1666: Plague, War and Hellfire by Rebecca Rideal. In 1666, a bubonic plague had forced University of Cambridge to close its doors and send all of its students back to their homes. One especially precocious 23-year-old student used this free time to redouble his studies, which included the world-changing reflections he made one afternoon while resting under an apple tree:
"[On a farmstead known as Woolsthorpe Manor], during the spring [English] trees [known as the Flower of Kent] would be covered in flushed pink-white blossom and by late summer and early autumn their branches would be heavy with large sweet apples, used for cooking. The farmstead ... was about a mile to the west of the Great North Road and located in an area of agricultural richness. Up until 1642, the limestone building and working fields had been owned by a prosperous yeoman farmer who had died just two months before the birth of his only child. This child was now a twenty-three-year-old man named Isaac Newton and, on a hazy autumn day in 1666, he sat beneath one of the apple trees in, as he later described, 'a contem­plative mood'./.../

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