Sir Isaac Newton – did you know?

Sir Isaac Newton. From a portrait by Kneller in 1689

Isaac Newton was appointed Master of the Mint between 1699-1727.

The title ‘Master of the Mint’ is held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, at the time of writing, is The Right Honourable George Osborne.

Isaac Newton is the most famous ‘Master of the Mint’ in our history – here are ten relatively little known facts about him:

  1. Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day 1642…however there is controversy about this date, some say that he was born on 4 January 1643 (the date varies according to the Gregorian calendar).  His father died three months before he was born. The common belief that he was a premature baby, not expected to survive, may have been something that came about later as Newton was keen to avoid the idea that he was conceived outside wedlock.
  2. Isaac Newton graduated from Cambridge University
    …but with no honours or distinctions.
  3. Two eminent peers of Newton refer to the ‘falling apple’ inspiration for the theory of gravitation…the French writer, Voltaire wrote about this, citingNewton’s half-niece as his source for the story. But the English Antiquarian, William Stukeley claimed to have received the story first-hand from Newton in 1726. Whatever the origins of this well-known story may be, it is a fact that Newton called the force he discovered ‘Gravity’, which kept the universe balanced, made it work, and brought heaven and earth together in one great equation.
  4. Newton discovered white light
    …through his experiments with the reflecting telescope he made in 1668.   He found that white light is composed of the same system of colours as seen in a rainbow, oil on water, or soap bubbles.  His work established the modern study of optics, publishing in 1704 ‘The Opticks’ which dealt with light and colour.
  5. In 1678 Newton suffered a complete nervous breakdown
    …followed by a further but shorter-lived one in 1693. This latter one was, perhaps, due to chronic mercury poisoning after decades of alchemical research.
  6. ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’
    …the quote found on the edge of a £2 coin, comes from a letter written in 1676 by Sir Isaac to his fellow-scientist Robert Hooke, acknowledging the debt he owed to other scientists.
  7. Newton was elected Member of Parliament for Cambridge University
    …from Dec1688 -90 and 1701–02.
  8. Newton was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, and its President in 1703
    …a post to which he was annually re-elected for the rest of his life.
  9. Queen Anne knighted Newton in Cambridge 1705
    …by which time he had become the dominant figure in British science and was considered the most highly esteemed natural philosopher in Europe.
  10. A crater on the Moon has been named after Newton
    …it is considered the deepest crater on the near side of the Moon.

Popular interest in Isaac Newton’s life continues to this day, and it is rumoured that he will be the subject of a forthcoming action film to be produced by Hollywood director Rob Cohen (who also made The Fast and The Furious).

You can expect to hear a lot more about Isaac Newton, because there’s a lot more to tell!

For more on Sir Isaac Newton visit The Royal Mint Museum website


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