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Math Science

Isaac Newton's Notes Digitized 92

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."
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Isaac Newton's Notes Digitized

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  • by neko the frog ( 94213 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:25PM (#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 ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:27PM (#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.

  • Luckily (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zaldarr ( 2469168 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:30PM (#38350238) Homepage
    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 Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:33PM (#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.

  • Re:Link to the book (Score:4, Informative)

    by reub2000 ( 705806 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:41PM (#38350338)

    The interesting part of this release is not that book, but the notebooks, so the link in the story is correct.

  • by waterbear ( 190559 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:51PM (#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 ( [])!

  • Awesome (Score:4, Informative)

    by starseeker ( 141897 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:57PM (#38350460) Homepage

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

    British Libraries Digitised Manuscripts []

    "Homer Multitext" - several manuscripts including Venetus A []

    The Archimedes Palimpsest []

    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: [])

    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 TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:29PM (#38350716) Journal
    Newton was born an Anglican and became a theologean who wrote more on religion than he did on science.The Vatican was incapable of breathing down any englishman's neck at the time because Oliver Cromwell had done his best to kill all the catholics and burn their churches to the ground when Newton was still a boy.
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:49PM (#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.
  • by sci-ku ( 2526824 ) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:42PM (#38351232)
    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 []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @05:27AM (#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 ( has been releasing its materials as open access resources for over a decade. This was _before_ UK HE funding bodies made it a requirement.

  • Re:Luckily (Score:4, Informative)

    by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @09:41AM (#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

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost