This introductory chapter discusses Isaac Newton’s immersion in ancient prophecies, Church history, and alchemy. These investigations raise several questions: what links his interest in such matters to his investigations in optics, mechanics, and mathematics? Was Newton in his alchemical laboratory the same Newton who analyzed the passage of light through a prism and who measured the behavior of bodies falling through fluid media? What did the Newton who interpreted the Book of Revelation have to do with the man who wrote the Principia Mathematica? And how does the Newton who pored over ancient texts square with the author of the Opticks? The Newton that is the subject of this book differs in striking ways from any scientist of the twenty-first century. But he differed as well from his contemporary natural philosophers, theologians, and chronologers. The book investigates the origin of this difference and then uses it to produce a new understanding of Newton’s worldview and its historical context.
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