THE kindness with which your lordship intrusted to me some very valuable materials for the composition of this volume has induced me to embrace the present opportunity of publicly acknowledging it. But even if this personal obligation had been less powerful, those literary attainments and that enlightened benevolence which reflect upon rank its highest lustre would have justified me in seeking for it the patronage of a name which they have so justly honoured.


Allerly, June 1st, 1831.



As this is the only Life of Sir Isaac Newton on any considerable scale that has yet appeared, I have experienced great difficulty in preparing it for the public. The materials collected by preceding biographers were extremely scanty; the particulars of his early life, and even the historical details of his discoveries, have been less perfectly preserved than those of his illustrious predecessors; and it is not creditable to his disciples that they have allowed a whole century to elapse without any suitable record of the life and labours of a master who united every claim to their affection and gratitude.

In drawing up this volume, I have obtained much assistance from the account of Sir Isaac Newton in the Biographia Britannica; from the letters to Oldenburg, and other papers in Bishop Horsley's edition of his works; from Turnor's Collections for the History of the Town and Soke of Grantham; from M. Biot's excellent Life of Newton in the Biographie Universelle; and from Lord King's Life and Correspondence of Locke.

Although these works contain much important information respecting the Life of Newton, yet I have been so fortunate as to obtain many new ma. terials of considerable value.

To the kindness of Lord Braybrooke I have been indebted for the interesting correspondence of Newton, Mr. Pepys, and Mr. Millington, which is now published for the first time, and which throws much light upon an event in the life of our author that has recently acquired an unexpected and a painful importance. These letters, when combined with those which passed between Newton and Locke, and with a curious extract from the manuscript diary of Mr. Abraham Pryme, kindly furnished to me by his collateral descendant Professor Pryme of Cambridge, fill up a blank in his history, and have enabled me to delineate in its true character that temporary indisposition which, from the view that has been taken of it by foreign philosophers, has been the occasion of such deep distress to the friends of science and religion.

To Professor Whewell, of Cambridge, I owe very great obligations for much valuable information. Professor Rigaud, of Oxford, to whose kindness I have on many other occasions been indebted, sup plied me with several important facts, and with ex tracts from the diary of Hearne in the Bodleian Library, and from the original correspondence between Newton and Flamstead, which the president of Corpus Christi College had for this purpose committed to his care; and Dr. J. C. Gregory, of Edinburgh, the descendant of the illustrious inventor of the reflecting telescope, allowed me to use his unpublished account of an autograph manuscript of Sir Isaac Newton, which was found among the papers of David Gregory, Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, and which throws some light on the history of the Principia.


« VorigeDoorgaan »