Many of Isaac Newton’s precious notebooks, in which he worked out his many influential, ground-breaking theories about the world around him, were written entirely in perfect Greek.
Newton’s ability to effortlessly scribble his theories, thoughts, and discoveries about some of the most complicated elements of science proves not just the genius of the scientist himself, but also the prevalence of Greek as a scientific language in seventeenth century England.
At the period, all educated people in England knew Ancient Greek and Latin, and many of them were well-studied in ancient Greek history, art, culture, literature, and drama as well.
Sir Isaac Newton’s Greek notes
While the titles and subjects he was working on are presented in Latin – as well as the brief explanations at the margins of the pages – the subject analysis itself is given in a brief, well written Greek text, in lowercase letters, with the necessary diacritical marks.
This is a notebook Newton acquired while he was an undergraduate at Trinity College and used from about 1661 to 1665. It includes many notes from his studies and, increasingly, his own explorations into mathematics, physics and metaphysics. It was inherited from his stepfather, and scholars believe it helped Newton to make significant breakthroughs in the field of calculus.
Due to the way it is written, with some strike-throughs and scratched-out letters, the notebook was judged ‘not fit to be printed’ at the time. Newton’s notebook was condemned to oblivion as they were passed down through Newton’s relatives for generations.
In 1872, Isaac Newton’s papers, including his notes in Greek, were presented to the Library of Cambridge. Currently, Cambridge owns the most extensive and important collection of Newton’s papers.
Their collection of the great thinker’s papers was finally digitized and put online by Cambridge University in 2011.
Sir Isaac Newton is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant and influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution.