History and Philosophy Of Science | Newton the Alchemist
X603 | 28389 | William Newman


It is now well-know to scholars that Isaac Newton, discoverer of the
law of universal gravitation and of the nature of white light, was
also an alchemist.  Newton wrote about a million words on the
subject, publishing virtually none of it.  This seminar will examine
Newton’s alchemical interests in depth, considering their possible
relation to his experimental science in general and to his religious
conceptions.  Particular weight will be given to situating Newton in
the alchemical/chemical milieu of seventeenth-century Europe and
Britain.  Since Newton transcribed and commonplaced over 1,000,000
words on alchemical literature extending from late antiquity to the
seventeenth century, his work provides a unique window into the
varying traditions that made up this complex discipline.  The course
will give students an opportunity to become involved in the current
project to edit and interpret Newton’s alchemical manuscripts, which
is centered in Indiana University’s Department of History and
Philosophy of Science.