Isaac Newton’s unpublished notes, half-burnt in an accident involving Newton’s dog, have been sold at auction for £378,000.
The notes show Newton attempting to discover the secrets hidden in the measurements of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, have sold at auction for £378,000.
The notes are described as “exceptionally rare” and date all the way back to the 1680s. They were close to being destroyed by Newton’s dog Diamond, who apparently jumped up on to the table and knocked a candle, setting them on fire.
The scorched notes show Newton’s attempts to prove the pyramids were built using a common unit of measurement: the royal cubit. He wanted to use the Egyptian knowledge to try and accurately measure the circumference of the Earth in order to demonstrate his theory of gravitation on a planetary scale.
“Newton believed it likely that the ancients had been able to measure the Earth using techniques lost to modern man. The figures given by Eratosthenes did not fit Newton’s propositions for gravitational attraction, so he turned to the earlier figure given by Thales and Anaximander in the 6th century BCE, which was that the Earth’s circumference was 400,000 ‘stades’,” said the auction house Sotheby’s.
“Assuming that the Greeks took their measures from the Egyptians, it should therefore be possible to quantify the stade from the cubit, and the Earth from the stade. Newton abandoned this line of argument before the publication of the Principia, but it is likely that when making these notes he hoped that the pyramid would give him the measure of the Earth and prove gravitational theory.”
Newton also attempts to decipher prophecies and hidden codes he believed were scattered throughout the Christian bible. Newton thought that if he could fully understand the royal cubit, he would in turn understand the sacred Hebrew cubit, the dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, and finally work out the size of Earth.
While alive, Newton didn’t published his occult studies so his interest only came to light relatively recently.
“It is not surprising that he did not publish on alchemy, since secrecy was a widely held tenet of alchemical research, and Newton’s theological beliefs, if made public, would have cost him (at least) his career,” said Sotheby’s. “He left behind vast manuscript writings on biblical exegesis and other theological subjects, presumably in the hope that his secret knowledge would reach a select and receptive readership in future generations.”