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Newton and the Origin of Civilization$
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Jed Z. Buchwald and Mordechai Feingold

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691154787

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691154787.001.0001

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Troubled Senses

Troubled Senses

(p.8) 1 Troubled Senses
Newton and the Origin of Civilization

Jed Z. Buchwald

Mordechai Feingold

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the roots of Isaac Newton’s interest in natural and historical knowledge. In the late seventeenth century, experiment-based knowledge remained suspect. Technical chronologers developed systems of concordances and sequences that located events of human history in time by means of their simultaneous occurrences with particular astronomical events, usually eclipses. It is precisely here that Isaac Newton, as a chronologer, differed programatically from his predecessors: he sought to use astronomical tools to mold singular events into a system for understanding ancient history, indeed for grasping the entire development of civilization—what’s more, a system that shared and exemplified the same evidentiary and argumentative structure deployed in his science.

Keywords:   Isaac Newton, natural knowledge, historical knowledge, science, astronomical tools

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