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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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Toward a General Theory of Vegetability and Mechanism

Toward a General Theory of Vegetability and Mechanism

(p.150) Eight Toward a General Theory of Vegetability and Mechanism
Newton the Alchemist

William R. Newman

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on Newton's treatise, Of Natures obvious laws & processes in vegetation. The treatise begins with a detailed consideration of the similarities and differences between mineral generation and that of animals and vegetables, then passes to a quite original theory of the different methods by which nature produces two common products, sea salt and niter, incidentally invoking the aerial niter theory of Sendivogius. After this, Newton presents his view that the earth is itself a living creature and uses its respiration to account for gravity, leading him into an intricate discussion of different “airs” as well as the relationship of even more subtle materials, namely, ether and the “body” of light. From here he launches into a discussion of God and attempts to improve on the proofs that René Descartes had supplied for the existence of the divinity. In the final paragraphs of the text, Newton returns to the theme of generation and employs the principle of vegetability to distinguish between the growth and activity imparted by nature from the more superficial processes of mechanism.

Keywords:   Isaac Newton, treatise, alchemy, Of Natures obvious laws & processes in vegetation, sea salt, niter, vegetability

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