Feb. 17, 2012
Sir Isaac Newton was, most likely, one of the ten greatest scientist who ever lived. #1 is a distinct possibility. Newton also believed that theological and scientific investigations were not alien to each other. He was deeply interested in the Jewish people believing that that they would ultimately return to their ancient lands.
Aron Heller (AP) wrote a fascinating article this week describing how some 7,500 pages of Newtons handwritten notes have been placed online by Israels national library (National Library of Israel). The collection is available here or displayed here.
Hellers account of how Newtons theological papers ended up in an Israeli museum is fascinating:
How his massive collection of work ended up in the Jewish state seems mystical in its own right.
Years after Newtons death in 1727, his descendants gave his scientific manuscripts to his alma mater, the University of Cambridge.
But the university rejected his nonscientific papers, so the family auctioned them off at Sothebys in London in 1936. As chance would have it, Londons other main auction house -- Christies -- was selling a collection of Impressionist art the same day that attracted far more attention.
Only two serious bidders arrived for the Newton collection that day. The first was renowned British economist John Maynard Keynes, who bought Newtons alchemy manuscripts. The second was Abraham Shalom Yahuda -- a Jewish Oriental Studies scholar -- who got Newtons theological writings.
Yahudas collection was bequeathed to the National Library of Israel in 1969, years after his death. In 2007, the library exhibited the papers for the first time and now they are available for all to see online.
The widespread availability of these papers should make it easier for Christian scholars to examine Newton's writings on science, theology, the Bible, and the Jewish people. One scholar noted that they have found "no negative expressions toward Jews" by Newton.