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Newton the Alchemist$
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William Newman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174877

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174877.001.0001

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The Young Thaumaturge

The Young Thaumaturge

(p.88) Five The Young Thaumaturge
Newton the Alchemist

William R. Newman

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the young Newton from his education at the Free Grammar School in Grantham during the 1650s up to his student years at Trinity College, Cambridge, beginning in 1661, in order to see how his interest in chymistry originated and developed. The standard view is that Newton was stimulated to his early interest in chymistry by the works of Robert Boyle. However, the recent discovery of an anonymous and hitherto unexamined manuscript, Treatise of Chymistry, provides new evidence showing that Newton was already compiling chymical dictionaries before reading Boyle's works on the subject. The chapter also considers what could be Newton's earliest notes on chrysopoeia, namely, his abstracts and summaries of the works attributed to the supposed fifteenth-century Benedictine Basilius Valentinus. Finally, it attempts to pin down some of the early contacts in Cambridge and London who transmitted the manuscripts and other texts to Newton that provided a major part of his alchemical knowledge.

Keywords:   Isaac Newton, education, alchemy, Free Grammar School, Trinity College, chymistry, Treatise of Chymistry, Robert Boyle, Benedictine Basilius Valentinus

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