Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Math Science

Isaac Newton's Notes Digitized 92

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the viacom-issues-dmca-takedown-notice dept.
First time accepted submitter nhstar writes with an excerpt from an article in the Register: "If you're looking for a bit of light reading this holiday season, Cambridge University is here to help: they've digitized and made available online over 4,000 pages of the pioneering scientist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton's most important works. 'Anyone, wherever they are, can see at the click of a mouse how Newton worked and how he went about developing his theories and experiments,' Cambridge University Library's digitization manager Grant Young told the BBC."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Isaac Newton's Notes Digitized

Comments Filter:
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:12PM (#38350044) Homepage Journal

    Being able to develop theories, without worrying some lawyer will come pounding on your door, claiming you are infringing this copyright or that patent.

    Dear Sir, it would pleasure us if you would cease and desist with observations on gravity as our client holds the patent on Apples Falling From Trees And Striking A Person Upon The Head. Should you continue with in your present direction we shall have you summoned to the King's Court and sort you out. Dewey, Cheatham & Howe, LLP

    Of course they had their battles, who stole an idea from who, but it was usually sorted out with a lot of yelling and smearing of reputation, rather than getting solicitors involved.

    • by neko the frog (94213) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:25PM (#38350192)

      Eh, seeing how Newton was involved in one of the most famous IP-theft disputes in history this is more than a bit ironic.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:26PM (#38350198)

      Being able to develop theories, without worrying some lawyer will come pounding on your door, claiming you are infringing this copyright or that patent.

      Dear Sir, it would pleasure us if you would cease and desist with observations on gravity as our client holds the patent on Apples Falling From Trees And Striking A Person Upon The Head. Should you continue with in your present direction we shall have you summoned to the King's Court and sort you out. Dewey, Cheatham & Howe, LLP

      Of course they had their battles, who stole an idea from who, but it was usually sorted out with a lot of yelling and smearing of reputation, rather than getting solicitors involved.

      Yeah, it was so much better when the local bishop, who is family with the local nobility if not royalty, would excommunicate you, imprison you, or even torture/execute you for heresy because your scientific finds went against Catholic/christian doctrine.

    • As funny as that sounds, didn't he get the Vatican breathing heavy down his neck for some stuff like gravity and his religious views? That could be considered the 18th century equivalent of a cease & desist from lawyers over IP.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...without worrying some lawyer will come pounding on your door...

      Yes but they did have to worry about the church pounding on their door, ready to burn a heretic...

  • Egads! How can you compare reading 16th century works to light?
  • > The remainder of the Newton papers, many concerned with alchemy, theology and chronology, were returned to Lord Portsmouth.

    Anyone know how many pages did he spend on physics and how many did he spend writing the rest of the subjects?

    Would be interesting to see his insights on what he thought about other subjects ...

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:27PM (#38350214) Homepage Journal

      > The remainder of the Newton papers, many concerned with alchemy, theology and chronology, were returned to Lord Portsmouth.

      Anyone know how many pages did he spend on physics and how many did he spend writing the rest of the subjects?

      Would be interesting to see his insights on what he thought about other subjects ...

      Yes. He was warden of the Royal Mint and had a great impact on modern coinage, but you don't hear a lot about that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sci-ku (2526824)
        Unless you're like me and got through The System of the World. I wonder how many other slashdotters can attribute 90% of what they know about Newton to Neal Stephenson?

        I thought I had a vague idea of Newton's clinical shyness, but Stephenson's picture is vastly more informative and interesting. No idea how truly accurate it is, but I'd guess quite a bit.

        Highly recommend reading if you haven't: The Baroque Cycle [wikipedia.org]
        • by 9jack9 (607686)

          Ha, yes. Newton, Liebnitz, William of Orange, all of that stuff. Learned it all from The Baroque Cycle. Nothing like fiction to teach you history! Oh, and we can't forget Lord Gy.

          http://books.google.com/books?id=bCGd7ampITkC&pg=PT325

          • by wdef (1050680)

            Quicksilver, bah. Having invested in reading the first half of the book I had just started to enjoy the characters when he suddenly shifts gears to modern times. You see I'm actually interested in Newton and Co and not just as plot devices. I was annoyed enough to stop reading.

            And while I do think Snow Crash is immensely clever in an intellectual sense, it is also tainted with postmod silliness (a samurai-sword wielding pizza delivery boy is more suited to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Also Stephenson i

            • by aiht (1017790)
              Modern times? I think you may be partaking in the Confusion. The periods covered in Quicksilver are Old Daniel Waterhouse era (circa 1700, I think) and Young Daniel Waterhouse era (e.g. 1666).

              Anyway, I'm inclined to agree with you about the prose style - but I find he's improving.
              I recently read Reamde and I thought that it was very well written, very polished, while Cryptonomicon had some rough edges. Of course, YMMV - I tend not to be very discerning in that regard, if the story holds my interest.

              As
              • by 9jack9 (607686)
                Heck, two of the best passages in modern literature are the narrative of the Deliverator in the beginning of Snow Crash and the story of Lord Gy in Quicksilver.
      • Newton, Invented milled edge coins to stop people trimming the edges (when the metal in coins was actually worth something)

        Spent most of his life researching esoteric alchemy and biblical numerology ... and most of his notes are to do with this and not physics ...

    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:49PM (#38350862) Journal
      Newton was a prolific writer and wrote more on theology than anything else (he was a theologean as well as a scientist, alchemist, etc), one example is that he wrote almost a million words looking for meaning in the numerology of 666, including a 6X6 magic square that contained only primes and summed to 666 on each row, column, and diagonal. He also claimed that "Jesus was sent to Earth to operate the levers of gravity". He is remebered for his undeniable genius in science, most of his other writings are (by modern standards) the ramblings of a madman.
  • Luckily (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zaldarr (2469168)
    Luckily they aren't in bleeding Latin. I got a hold of a Project Gutenberg copy of Principa and I open the PDF only to find that most of the words ended in 'us' and 'um'.
    • by Sparx139 (1460489)
      I don't think that's changed, the version of Principa is in latin at least. It's awesome that it's Newton's own annotated copy, but being able to read it would be useful
      • Re:Luckily (Score:4, Informative)

        by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @08:41AM (#38354294)

        Newton spoke English (17th century English) and so his notes are in that ...but this is Pre-Johnson's Dictionary so there is no standard English and no standard spelling so he wrote in Lincolnshire/Cambridge English ...Because of this most published works were written in Latin which did have standard spelling and could read by most intellectual Europeans

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:33PM (#38350268)

    As far as I can tell:

    1. You can't link to a specific page in the archive, which makes sharing a bit tricky; and

    2. You can't download full-resolution pages.

    Still a useful resource to have, but it's a bit unfortunate that these kinds of digitization projects seem to always want to roll-their-own slightly opaque interface.

    • by decora (1710862) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:46PM (#38350380) Journal

      the masses: we need digitize our books. google is doing it, why cant we?

      library admin: i understand. let me find a vendor.

      vendor a: our product costs 5 billion

      vendor b: our product cost 8 billion, but we will give you kickbacks

      vendor c: our product cost 3 billion

      library admin: dear management, i need 8 billion dollars

      management: wow cool. so we can be like a real business right? ive always wanted to play business man and make a profit

      library admin: yes, we will own copyright on all materials, and our special interface will provide centralized control so we can keep out the riff raff

      hippie: but arent you a taxpayer funded institution whose job is to disseminate information as efficiently as possible?

      management: have the hippie shot

      library admin: consider it done

      4 years later...

      library admin + manager: press release! our new surfable hierarchy tiered book access gateway (SHiTBAG) allows students all over the country to improve their lea blah blah blah blah blah

      oracle sales manager: so, we are looking at a 4 year contract, and that will be 50,000 seats, so basically we are looking at 10 billion dollars

      libray admin: awesome. the more money i am in control of, the more power i have inside the bureaucracy. ps, can i get an invite to your sweet conference in boca this year?

      users: what the fuck is this shit? java plugin has crashed? please set your JAVA HOME? what the fuck is JAVA HOME?

      users buddy: nevermind all that, let me show you this thing called 'bit torrent'

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:27AM (#38353124)

        I'm one of the members of this project and this post has irked me (to say the least). I think what has bothered me most are the assumptions that the poster made.

        The costs that the poster gave show no connection with the reality of academic funding in the humanities in the UK. We were generously funded by JISC and two anonymous donors (for whose support we are extremely grateful) - the total funds were approximately 0.00125% of the 8 billion.

        All the work was done in-house by what amounted to less than three full-time positions working for nine months. Approximately half were responsible for digitising/encoding the materials (images and XML) and 1.5 full-time position's worth of work was involved in the development of the front and backends for the project - all of which are based on open-source software.

        More importantly, these materials are all open access. The Newton Project (http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk) has been releasing its materials as open access resources for over a decade. This was _before_ UK HE funding bodies made it a requirement.

        • first of all, it was a joke, so i didnt mean to harsh on you. i love all scanning projects. its the saviour of civilization (what is left of it).

          But now that i have actually visited your site, i notice you are claiming copyright on the works of Isaac Newton, who died over 300 years ago. I don't know what kind of opyright law they have in the UK, but in the US all of this stuff would be, technically, public domain.

          It is awesome to bring it to the public. on the other hand, where are the pdf files? Can you d

    • To the left of the image were links providing direct URLs for the specific page you were viewing, and a download link for the image. The site is down right now, so I can't check if they are full resolution or not.

      The only complaint I had with the interface was that there were no navigation buttons in full page mode, and that it was a little slow to load pages, which considering that the site is down now was probably just a heavy load issue.

  • ...that according to the BBC, there was a lot of pushback against some of Newton's workings because they weren't very good. I've not studied the papers that are up enough to verify the accuracy of the BBC's claim but if there is any basis to the statements then this may damage Newton's place in history as it will give credence to the view that he "acquired" material from Huygens and Descartes on the grounds that if he didn't really grasp the material he was writing about then he was less likely to be the or

    • according to the BBC, there was a lot of pushback against some of Newton's workings ... this may damage Newton's place in history...

      There are plenty of nuts who are keen to get publicity by claiming to debunk Einstein, Newton, or almost anybody famous who will get them some attention.

      'Never at Rest' by R S Westfall (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3ngEugMMa9YC [google.co.uk]) was widely reviewed as a good scientific biography. The biographer more or less admitted that he was somewhat hostile towards his subject but eve

      • by jd (1658)

        Debunking isn't necessarily the same thing as criticizing the workings. Plenty of theory holds up even after a person has had their knuckles rapped and told to go through the calculations again. (Black hole evaporation was discovered by such a process.) The problem with Newton (and, indeed, Einstein) is that there are questions of originality. Einstein was well-aware of spacetime theory prior to coming up with relativity, for example. Newton was well-aware of prior work on laws of motion and on calculus. Al

  • by waterbear (190559) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:51PM (#38350414)

    It seems weird that they chose to digitize a printed copy of the Principia that had many of its pages so badly burnt away that they can't be read. There are better copies around even in the same library that could have been scanned. Perhaps the best scanned image of Newton's Principia is one that was put online by the Bibliotheque nationale de France (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k3363w.r=.langFR [gallica.bnf.fr])!

  • Awesome (Score:4, Informative)

    by starseeker (141897) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:57PM (#38350460) Homepage

    There have been a number of other notable manuscript digitization projects of late:

    British Libraries Digitised Manuscripts
    http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/ [www.bl.uk]

    "Homer Multitext" - several manuscripts including Venetus A
    http://www.homermultitext.org/ [homermultitext.org]

    The Archimedes Palimpsest
    http://www.archimedespalimpsest.org/ [archimedespalimpsest.org]

    Personally I think such projects are absolutely vital to the long term preservation of these manuscripts. Modern technology makes possible the duplication of these source documents in high fidelity facsimile (Taschen in particular has published a number of fascinating editions, including Blaeu's Atlas Maior - another example would be The Book of Michael of Rhodes from MIT Press). So often works survive only as a copy of a copy of a copy, and we are left to peer through the murky glass of multiple interpertations at the far distant original author's intent. (The current definitive edition of Euclid, for example, is available to us only because of a single surviving early copy in the Vatican's library (which so far as I know has not been digitized, unfortunately, except for a couple images here: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/vatican/math.html). [loc.gov])

    We should be scanning and then printing many copies of these early works and depositing them in libraries around the world in order to help these early glimpses into our history survive (at least in SOME form, even if the originals are lost). Of course, multiple copies of the digital data is also very important, but we have no way of knowing how well digital data will survive on thousand-year time scales. Fingers crossed that we will see multiple volume facsimilie copies of Newton's notebooks (one volume for the facsimile, one for a modern translation ) on Amazon in the next few years...

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:02PM (#38350530) Homepage Journal

    If you really want your mind blown, take a look at some of Sir Isaac's alchemical writings which are included in these collections.

    Old boy was into some way deep shit. Dude did. not. play. What I wouldn't give just to be able to buy him drinks and ask him questions for maybe twelve hours.

    Seriously.

    Plus, he had dealings, scientific and otherwise, with some very interesting characters.

  • by starseeker (141897) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:16PM (#38350618) Homepage

    Looks like they're using a non-commercial Creative Commons license for the images:

    Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC 3.0)

    That trend seems to be popular when it comes to such efforts, and by and large I'm OK with it - preserving early manuscripts is not a zero cost operation, and the NC license allows the data to be distributed and made available for scholarship while still giving the holding institution the chance to recover some of the (usually non-trivial) expense of digitzation. Hopefully if they don't want to publish printed bound versions themselves they'll be willing to negociate with someone who is intersted...

    • by vadim_t (324782) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:34AM (#38353140) Homepage

      I'm not ok with it. I find it extremely offensive.

      The funding was already provided, by a donation of 1.5 GBP, so all the costs have already been covered. Work funded by the public should be in the public domain, and I think that should be made a law. Additionally, it's public domain content, which IMO should be illegal to restrict.

      It's fundamentally unethical to take public money and then double-charge the public by putting restrictions on the result.

  • I checked out a version from my local library just so I could try and read it for myself. This edition was a fairly recent translation from Newton's original work, which was in Latin, into modern day English. Even with that and with an advanced engineering degree and some study of orbital mechanics, I couldn't begin to grasp what he was saying. His mind worked on levels far above mere mortals. I can only imagine that reading his personal notes would be like staring into the face of the Sun without protectio

    • Even the devotion to alchemy. It was the chemistry of his day, and promised the best understanding of chemical interactions available. That it was based on an impossible goal (transmutation of elements via chemical reactions) doesn't mean there was nothing worth studying. Quite a few of the elements were discovered by alchemists, and modern chemistry came from alchemy.
    • Don't know if you will find this surprising, but Newton really did stare the Sun unprotected...
      http://mintaka.sdsu.edu/GF/vision/others.html [sdsu.edu]

  • I've scanned Principia and I find no references to Daniel Waterhouse or Enoch Root, or the Salomonic Gold. Could Neal Stephenson been writing *fiction*?

  • by cvtan (752695) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:45PM (#38350830)
    I'm getting the sinking feeling that these guys, while smarter than the average person, were also better educated than we are. He is British and yet writes this complex tome in Latin. I got the same sinking feeling when reading The Leatherstocking Tales series by James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans etc.). There are passages of French dialog that are not translated. Apparently, as an educated person, you are just expected to know French. My language requirement in college was satisfied by taking Fortran! I hang my head in shame.
  • > Isaac Newton's Notes Digitized and slashdotted (already)
  • In the 200,000 years of human history the most import event occurred 325 years ago when Newton wrote Principia. The world changed more in the last 325 years than the preceding 200,000.

    The lives of people in Newton's time where more like cavemen than modern men. Indeed many people effectively where cavemen in Newton's time. When Newton was a kid he went away to school. Because his school was five miles from his parents house! Do you live within five miles of your job? Or do you perhaps do a lot of te
    • Darwin's work is equal, at least, as it involves human history directly, and changed the peoples mind and views of themselves as an integral part of the whole that Newton described.

      Newton was, of course, an important precursor, as were Linnaeus, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler etc.

      • Number of Universal Laws (Universally applicable Scientific theories) before Newton : None

        There were precursors to gravitation that were about before him, and others might have applied them to objects on Earth, or in space, his great leap was seeing they could apply to both ...

        It changed the universe from "on earth and in heaven" to "everywhere" ...

  • Seriously, I was so confused. Had to take a triple take before I realised.

  • FTFA - "The university had to undertake conservation work on some of the manuscripts, which were considered too fragile to be scanned"?!

    WTF, so a handful of guest researchers in white cotton gloves every are less prone to damage the manuscript than a single scan?!

    I doubt that.

    This was the best option. Scan (or photograph them) them and put them on the web.

Hackers of the world, unite!

Working...