As the world grapples with the corona virus pandemic and the social isolation necessary to prevent its spread, inspiration can be drawn from history. In the 1660s, Sir Isaac Newton, the English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution, used his time of social isolation during the Great Plague of London (1665-66) quite wisely. During this plague, a quarter of the city’s population died. Newton, a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, returned to his family home, and was mostly alone. Yet he was not lonely because he cultivated an incredible life of the mind.
Gillian Brockell wrote in The Washington Post: “Without his professors to guide him, Newton apparently thrived. The year-plus he spent away was later referred to as his annus mirabilis, the ‘year of wonders.’…The story of how Newton sat under the tree, was bonked on the head by an apple and suddenly understood theories of gravity and motion, is largely apocryphal. But according to his assistant, John Conduitt, there’s an element of truth….” Click to learn more.
Newton and Leibniz: Crash Course History of Science: “The standard story of the Scientific Revolution culminates with the long life of one man: Sir Isaac Newton—a humble servant of the Royal Mint, two-time parliamentarian, and a scientific titan whose name, along with Einstein’s, is synonymous with physics today.” Transcript.
Crash Course Physics on Newton’s Laws: “I’m sure you’ve heard of Isaac Newton and maybe of some of his laws. Like, that thing about “equal and opposite reactions” and such. But what do his laws mean? And how do they help us understand the world around us? In this episode of Crash Course Physics, Shini talks to us about just that.” Transcript.
Crash Course Physics on Newtonian Gravity: “I’m sure you’ve all heard about Isaac Newton and that apple that fell on his head and how that was a huge deal to our understanding of gravity. Well… let’s talk about that. In this episode of Crash Course Physics, Shini sits down to talk about the realities of the apple story and how Newtonian Gravity is more than a little important.” Transcript.
Bubonic plague was so deadly an English village quarantined itself to save others. A few years after the English Civil War between Protestants and Catholics, when the plague broke out in 1665, for 14 months the village of Eyam quaranteened itself, marked by a ring of stones, preventing the spread to other towns. The residents “doomed themselves to pestilential death to save the surrounding country,” wrote one of their descendants.