Series Convenors: Dr Alex Aylward, Professor Erica Charters, Professor Mark Harrison, Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Catherine M Jackson, Dr Sloan Mahone
Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology
Dr Jack Avery (University of Oxford
“Chains of invincible reasoning”? New approaches to the Newton manuscripts at New College
This talk explores the possibilities raised by a manuscript-led approach to Newton’s thought and research, and in particular how it was shaped by his scribal practices. I will focus on the four manuscripts held at New College: these volumes comprise an eclectic set of notes on chronology made during the last decades of Newton’s life, and are written over a vast assortment of recycled documents. Such papers – Mint and business drafts, invitations, begging letters, and so on – anchor Newton’s chronological research to his life in London, and I will dig down through the layers of Newton’s manuscripts to reveal the surprising entanglements which emerge between these ostensibly separate fields. Addressing Newton through the overlapping scribal histories of his papers opens up new perspectives on his thought, not least his engagement with creative expression and early modern panegyric. Like his contemporaries, Newton was sensitive to imaginative political expression in verse and in images, and the New College papers demonstrate how his chronological research and work for the Mint were in a mutually creative exchange.