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The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton's Thought

By Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs

During this significant reevaluation of Isaac Newton's highbrow lifestyles, Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs indicates how his pioneering paintings in arithmetic, physics, and cosmology used to be intertwined together with his research of alchemy. Professor Dobbs argues that to Newton these a number of highbrow goals have been all methods of imminent fact, and that Newton's fundamental aim used to be now not the examine of nature for its personal sake yet relatively an try and identify a unified method that may have integrated either average and divine ideas. She additionally argues that Newton's technique was once a lot broader than glossy students have formerly intended, and she or he strains the evolution of his idea at the intertwined difficulties of the microcosmic "vegetable spirit" of alchemy and the "cause" of the cosmic precept of gravitation.

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I i . No English observation survives, despite the fact that, and, except misplaced among 1888 and 1936, may possibly by no means have existed. See additionally C a ta lo g u e o f th e N e w t o n P a p ers (i, n. 27), lot no. 31, p. five; Munby, “ The Keynes assortment” (6, n. 13); Dobbs, “ Newton’s C o m m e n ta r y ” (1, n. 5). 271 273 The Janus faces o f genius Appendix B ‘The Seven Chapters’ [A Treatise on Transmutation] approximately 4750 phrases, 19 pp. Autograph, with many changes and re-writings sm. quarto. ” ^ even if Keynes MSS 27 and z8 don't represent all of his paintings on Hermes, they either have been a part of Newton’s long term learn of the airtight texts, as a step by step ex­ amination of the 2 manuscripts will clarify.

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50), f. 96r. five. Ibid. , f. 96V. zi6 The Janus faces o f genius within the i68os that it may be inertially homogeneous with usual subject, even though lively, and will be condensable into traditional subject. The loss of life of his cosmic gravitational aether had after all pressured a reconsideration of aethereal motives for short-range phenomena, either mechanical and vegetable, and in De aere et aethere he had con­ sidered a number of percentages as a “ reason” for short-range repulsion: a “ medium” no longer simply compressible, “ an incorporeal nature” created by way of God, and a “ sphere of so much fluid and tenuous topic” surrounding the “ difficult and impenetrable” nuclei of debris.

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