From Michael Marotta@21:1/5 to All on Fri Dec 22 16:58:05 2017
Celebrating Newtonmas off and on since 1984, this year I honored Sir Isaac by buying myself one of the commemorative 50p coins from the British Royal Mint.
"Near the end of his life, Newton described himself to his nephew and biographer, John Conduitt, in these pleasant words: 'I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy, playing on the seashore, and
diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.'
"Two hundred years later, biographer Milo Keynes wrote: 'This life of apparent serenity was, however, far from the truth, for Newton is known to have had a most complex and difficult personality.' His colleagues described him variously as fearful,
cautious, suspicious, insidious, ambitious, excessively covetous of praise and impatient of contradiction. Even his closest relatives and true friends were modest in their praise." -- "Sir Isaac Newton: Warden and Master of the Mint," by Michael E.
Marotta, The Numismatist, November 2001. (George Heath Literary Award, 2nd Place, 2002.)
We commonly call the Nativity scene “the first Christmas” though it was not. The first Christ Mass could not have been celebrated before the Church existed. So, too, did the first Newtonmas not come until 248 years after his birth.
It seems that three students at Tokyo University started Newtonmas in their dormitory sometime before 1890. As the undergraduates developed into graduates and assistants, their professors were drawn into the celebration, and a more suitable assembly
hall was found in the University Observatory. By 1890, they called themselves the Newtonkai (Newton Association; 皆 = kai = “all”) and moved to the Physical Laboratory. There, they played games symbolic of great mathematicians, physicists, and
astronomers: Newton’s apple, Franklin’s kite, a naked doll for Archimedes …
That story comes from “A New Sect of Hero-Worshippers” published in Nature, Vol. 46, No. 1193, p. 459, 8 September 1892. It available from the publisher for $18 if you are not a member, or it can be found online at Google Books.
The English crown turned to him to save the Royal Mint. Even when they were not corrupt - which they usually were - the Mint officials were unable to solve the basic problem of creating and maintaining a system of money that worked. A stern Protestant,
deeply religious, and moralistic in the extreme, Newton cleared out the criminal element and gave England a reliable monetary system.
Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist by Thomas Levenson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) is intended for a general readership, yet rests on an extraordinary foundation of careful scholarship.
Thomas Levenson teaches science journalism at MIT. He has been granted several awards for his PBS documentaries. Levenson delivers to print the videographer’s impact of sight and sound. You walk down the alleys and into the pubs where Isaac Newton
investigated crimes against the Mint of which he served as warden and later master.