Isaac Newton - James Gleick (2004)

Acknowledgments and Sources

I have meant to ground this book as wholly as possible in its time; in the texts. The diaspora of Newton’s manuscripts began at his death, continued for more than three centuries, and has only lately been reversed. They are still widely scattered, but the Cambridge University Libraries have gathered much of the essential core holding, including much of Newton’s own library, annotated by him. I am indebted to Adam J. Perkins and others for great courtesy. Documents are cited according to the Cambridge numbering scheme as Add MS (Additional Manuscripts) or Keynes MS (Keynes Collection at Kings College). I am grateful to Joanna Corden, Rafael Weiser, Silvie Merian, and their colleagues in the archives of the Royal Society of London, the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem (Yehuda MS), and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, and to the National Trust custodians at Woolsthorpe Manor, for access and knowledge.

For guidance, criticism, and correction, I owe special thanks to James Atlas, Cynthia Crossen, Peter Galison, Scott Mandelbrote, Esther Schor, Craig Townsend, and Jonathan Weiner, as well as my agent, Michael Carlisle. Above all to my editor, Dan Frank.


There is no such thing as The Collected Works of Isaac Newton. The Newton Project, at Imperial College, London, has long-term plans for the theological, alchemical, and Mint writings. Meanwhile two monuments of scholarship are the collected correspondence and the collected mathematical papers:

Turnbull, Herbert W.; Scott, John F.; Hall, A. Rupert; and Tilling, Laura, eds. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton (cited as Corres). Seven volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959–77.

Whiteside, D. T., ed. The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton (cited as Math). Eight volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967–80.

Optical papers are in progress:

Shapiro, Alan E., ed. The Optical Papers of Isaac Newton: The Optical Lectures 1670–1672. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

I have depended on other essential texts collected or reproduced in these volumes:


The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (cited as Principia). Translated by I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman with the assistance of Julia Budenz. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World. Translated by Andrew Motte (1729), revised by Florian Cajori. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1947.

Newton’s Principia: The Central Argument: Translation, Notes, and Expanded Proofs. Dana Densmore and William H. Donahue. Santa Fe: Green Lion Press, 1995.

Opticks. Foreword by Albert Einstein. New York: Dover, 1952.

The Background to Newton’s Principia: A Study of Newton’s Dynamical Researches in the Years 1664–1684. John Herivel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Certain Philosophical Questions: Newton’s Trinity Notebook. J. E. McGuire and Martin Tamny. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Isaac Newton’s Papers & Letters on Natural Philosophy. Edited by I. Bernard Cohen. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958.

The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton’s Thought. Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Newton: Texts, Backgrounds, Commentaries. Edited by I. Bernard Cohen and Richard S. Westfall. New York: Norton, 1995.

The Preliminary Manuscripts for Isaac Newton’s 1687 Principia, 1684–85. Introduction by D. T. Whiteside. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

The Unpublished First Version of Isaac Newton’s Cambridge Lectures on Optics, 1670–1672. Introduction by D. T. Whiteside. Cambridge: University Library, 1973.

Unpublished Scientific Papers of Isaac Newton. Edited by A. Rupert Hall and Marie Boas Hall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.


The authoritative scientific biography is Richard S. Westfall’s Never at Rest (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980). He offered a salutary warning to all who follow: “The more I have studied him, the more Newton has receded from me.… Only another Newton could hope fully to enter into his being, and the economy of the human enterprise is such that a second Newton would not devote himself to the biography of the first.”

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———. “Isaac Newton’s ‘Of an Universall Language.’ ” Modern Language Review 52 (1957): 1.

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———. Planets, Stars, and Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos, 1200–1687.

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———. Reading the Principia: The Debate on Newton’s Mathematical Methods for Natural Philosophy from 1687 to 1736. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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