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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« Data, Raw and Otherwise | Main | All Of You Industrial Scientists: Out Of the Room »

December 2, 2009

Copyright 1671: I Like the Sound of That

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Posted by Derek

Thanks to the Royal Society, here's the sort of scientific paper that they just don't make any more: "A Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton, Professor of the Mathematicks at the University of Cambridge, Containing His New Theory About Light and Colors". Along the way, in between making fundamental observations about refraction, rainbows, white light, complementary colors, and human perception, he invents the reflecting telescope that I take out into my yard on clear nights.

Newton was the Real Deal if anyone ever was. Like Bernoulli, you may recognize the lion by his paw.

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: General Scientific News


1. petros on December 2, 2009 10:31 AM writes...

And didn't he waste most of his later years pursuing alchemy?

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2. Rhenium on December 2, 2009 10:41 AM writes...

From page 3080

"Amidst these thoughts I was forced from Cambridge by the intervening Plague, and it was more then two years before I proceeded further."

I don't know it his granting agency will stand for a two year hiatus in the work, plague or no plague...

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3. JH on December 2, 2009 10:52 AM writes...

Euler, if anyone, was the real deal.

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4. RB Woodward on December 2, 2009 11:44 AM writes...

My favorite take on Sir Isaac is the Baroque Cycle trilogy by Stephenson.

Also, it is alleged that the famous "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" was a cheap shot at the very short Hooke.

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5. Johnny Fitz on December 2, 2009 12:00 PM writes...

Wonder if Newton would have been able to get tenure under our present system. I still say neither darwin nor Einstein would have. I also wonder if they would have wanted to.
Thanks for putting this up by the way, I love to read the old stuff, sometimes it motivates me, sometimes it makes me feel a little inadequate though.

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6. Tok on December 2, 2009 12:24 PM writes...

Historians have (relatively) recently discovered Newton took quite a bit of credit for discoveries made by Hooke when Hooke died before Newton and could no longer defend his name. There's a pretty good description of their interactions in the book "The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors"

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7. Derek Lowe on December 2, 2009 12:29 PM writes...

JH, no argument about Euler - or Gauss, either, for that matter. I'm not enough of a mathematician to say for sure, but I think that there's a good case to add Riemann to that list as well. At any rate, we're most certainly talking about the first row of the big auditorium.

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8. TAC on December 2, 2009 12:36 PM writes...

Actually, copyright as we know it today didn't exist until the Statute of Anne in 1709. This would've been protected by the royal charter granted to the Stationers' Company, which, in an effort to suppress the Protestant Reformation, forbid all publishing by other entities. So yeah, this paper predates copyright.

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9. Carmen on December 2, 2009 1:04 PM writes...

What a treat-I'm partial to Edmund Stone's "Account of the Success of the Bark of the Willow in the Cure of Agues", m'self.

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10. anonym on December 2, 2009 4:44 PM writes...

Hey Derek,

could you give us some insight into this latest Nature paper "Amino-acid imbalance explains extension of lifespan by dietary restriction in Drosophila"

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11. anon the II on December 2, 2009 5:15 PM writes...

to Carmen:

Pleafe don't poft any more articlef like that one. They're very annoying to try to read. It appearf that they had an "s" in their typefetting kit but they refufed to ufe it.

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12. bad wolf on December 2, 2009 5:32 PM writes...

anon@11: Don't both articles have the same (antiquated) spelling system? Why complain about only one? Heck, if anyone else has a favorite seventeenth- or eighteenth-century journal article they'd like to share, i'd love to see it.

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13. dearieme on December 2, 2009 7:09 PM writes...

Newton must be the only man who has been a top-flight mathematician, and experimental physicist, and theoretical physicist. Or not?

By repute, the pictures Einstein displayed on his wall were of Newton, Clerk Maxwell and Faraday.

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14. Sili on December 2, 2009 7:55 PM writes...

And didn't he waste most of his later years pursuing alchemy?
He was pretty good at getting forgerers executed.

And he did hella job wiping all trace of Hooke from the historybooks (apropos of scientists being people, too. Not necessarily nice people. And yet apples still fall to the ground.)

Riemann was a genius, yes. Another life cut tragically short.

Newton may have had precedence, but we all use Leibnitz' system now - even the English. It's also worth remembering that none of these people worked in a vacuum: Fermat and Descartes did the ground work of analytical geometry to pave the way. And they along with many others were nibbling at the edges of calculus before N&L. But the final synthesis and understanding was all Newton and Leibniz, yes.

It's not an f!

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15. alig on December 2, 2009 8:36 PM writes...

Why in the title and abstract does he talk about colors, but in the body of the paper talk about colours?

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16. Jose on December 3, 2009 4:19 AM writes...

"Although it's a very tiny genome, it's much more complicated than we thought."

Good luck with genomics and GWAS, kiddies!

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17. David on December 3, 2009 2:01 PM writes...

As to 15.

Color is an American Spelling - colour is a British and Canadian spelling

As to 11:


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18. alig on December 3, 2009 4:40 PM writes...


Really? In 1671 he choose to use the American spelling in the title of his paper?

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19. Jet on December 3, 2009 9:00 PM writes...

I teach, and asked a group of third graders what fruit is most often associated with Isaac Newton. Several students shouted out "the fig!"

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20. David on December 5, 2009 4:35 PM writes...

to: Alig

Partly right, insofar as I could tell Mr. Newton used colour. The abstract author - who may or may not have been Mr. Newton chose color. The use of color in English spelling was not unknown. The split happened sometime later.

BTW - I do not rely on Wikipaedia but for a quick, non-substantive question it will do.

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