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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Sir Isaac Newton

  • [A celebrated English philosopher; born in Lincolnshire, 1642; educated at Cambridge; discovered the theory of fluxions and the law of gravitation, 1665; professor of mathematics at Cambridge, 1669; wrote “The Principia,” 1685–86; master of the mint, 1699; elected to Parliament, and President of the Royal Society, 1703; knighted, 1705; died March 20, 1727, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.]
  • I cannot calculate the madness of the people.

  • When asked how high he thought South Sea stock would rise.
  • Being asked his opinion of poetry, he replied, “I’ll give you that of Barrow: he said it was a kind of ingenious nonsense.”
  • His biographer, Sir David Brewster, gives but does not vouch for the following illustration of Newton’s absence of mind: “His friend Dr. Stukely was one day shown into Sir Isaac’s dining-room, where dinner had for some time been served. After waiting until he became impatient, he removed the cover from a chicken, which he ate, replacing the bones under the cover. In a short time Sir Isaac entered the room, and sat down to dinner, but, removing the cover and seeing nothing but bones, remarked, “How absent we philosophers are! I really thought I had not dined.”—Life.
  • Brewster denies the story of Newton’s little dog Diamond overturning a lighted taper upon some paper containing the results of certain optical experiments, and being rebuked by the philosopher with the words, “O Diamond, Diamond, little do you know the mischief you have done me!” “He never,” says Brewster, “had any communion with dogs or cats.” Herein he differed from the French Maupertuis, who, being asked by a lady how he, loving cats, could use them for purposes of vivisection, replied, “Madame, one has under-cats for experiments of that nature;” what Shakespeare (“Merchant of Venice,” IV. 1) would call “a harmless, necessary cat.”
  • Towards the close of his life, Newton said, “I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now or then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” (v. “Paradise Regained,” IV. 330.)