A portrait of Isaac Newton by Frank E. Manual

By Frank E. Manual

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W ith this handful it pleased God to cast the scale. ^ Though we do not know what political side the Newtons and the Ayscoughs took in the civil war, other Lincolnshire propertyholders sent petitions denouncing the requisitions made by both parties as the invading armies scoured the countryside for food and fodder. In 1643 The Vrotestation and Declaration of Divers Knights, Esquires, Gentlemen, and Freeholders of the Counties of Uncolne and 'Nottingham Against the unjust oppressions and inhumane pro­ ceeding of William Earle of New-castle and his Cavaliers .

Such propensities to evil continued at the Univer­ sity, for after Whitsunday 1662, in violation of his resolve, he helped another undergraduate, Valentine Pettit, to ma\e his water watch at 12 of the cloc\ on Saturday night, when the Sabbath had already begun. The degree to which all human activities had to be limited 62 Failure to pray and inattentiveness in church constituted another category of sins against God. Missing chapel and Carelessly hearing and committing many sermons remind one of the strict regimen that required young men to listen to sermons and learn them by heart.

Th e adolescent dream of a machine of per­ petual motion attracted W ilkins as it had Hartlib, and the young Newton felt the same fascination. In late adolescence Newton was interested in many cognate problems to which W ilkins had devoted himself—^a new philosophi­ cal language of notations that would be universally comprehensible, a phonetic system of spelling, various schemes of shorthand and transmission through secret code. Newton’s own phonetic system set forth in the Morgan notebook was probably evolved too early to be affected by the Royal Society’s committee for improving the Eng­ lish language (1664), and it is certainly prior to W ilkins’ Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language (1668), which Newton mentions in a letter of 1679; but many other writers had previously attempted to devise more “rational” systems of spell­ ing and means of communication, particularly in connection with the pansophic movement which Comenius promoted in England by his appearance there during the Commonwealth.

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