15th February 1676.
I am a friend of Plato (Amicus Plato); I am a friend of Aristotle (Amicus Aristoteles); But chiefly a friend of Truth (Magis Amica Veritas). Notes Newton wrote to himself entitled,‘Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophical’ (Certain philosophical questions)c 1604.
Newton typical of the scientists of the era hadn’t yet shaken off the god inspired universe and was himself obsessed with the occult and alchemy.
Newton said the Biblical Book of Revelation was a continuation of the Five Visions of Daniel and if one hadn’t acquired that imagery, one couldn’t hope to understand Revelation, which might be true, but not what we would expect from a scientist today.
Today in 1676 Isaac Newton to Robert Hooke: ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders (sic) of Giants’.(1)
Physics is divided into pre and Post-Newtonian, the latter noted for Newton’s work on Motion, Gravity and the Maths of Calculus, with words such as inertia, momentum and acceleration entering the language and given a precise definition by Maths.
Newton was to solve refraction of light and understanding of the rainbow. He explained how the bulge at the equator caused the 26,000 years precession of the equinox.
He applied the Law of Gravity to determine the ancient position of the moon to reconstruct the Judean Calendar and thus the supposed date of the crucifixion of Jesus.(2)
However there was an element of wish fulfilment here as his aim was to to show how Jesus’ life was to fulfil the writings of the Old Testament Prophet Daniel: 9:24-27.(3)
What this shows is how much in the grip of religious mysticism science before the 18thc Enlightenment was.
(1) Letter dated as 5 February 1675 with the Julian Calenda (qv), with March 25th rather than 1st January as New Year’s Day (equivalent to 15th February 1676 by Gregorian reckoning. The phrase itself was first used by Bernard of Chartres as reported by John of Salisbury.
(2) Owing to ‘Precession’ the earth spins like a top completing a circuit every 26,000 years and this accounts for the different arrangements of the constellations.
Computer programs have a shown these configurations at different times which help to define the age of the building. Dr. Kate Spence of Cambridge was said to have solved the riddle of how the Egyptians got their tombs to line up to within a fraction of a degree of true north.
(3) The work of Pratt, John P. examines this in detail regarding date of crucifixion. Quarterly Journal of RAS 32 (Sept 1991) PP 301-4, summarises Newton’s thought.
Ref: P 115 A Delightful Miscellany of Great Britons, Karl Shaw, Boxtree 2009. P 115 on Newton.
Ref: Wikiquotes Isaac Newton.
Ref: John Pratt.com/items/docs Newton on Daniel.