Science Studies

Britannica Illustrated Science Library-Energy and Movement by Inc. Encyclopaedia Britannica

By Inc. Encyclopaedia Britannica

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For the next two and a half years Newton scarcely corresponded with anyone. Then, in September 1674, Francis Hall, or Linus, as he called himself in Latin, sent a letter to Oldenburg criticizing Newton's experiments. Oldenburg was hesitant to pass it on, but if he did not do so his position as a scientific agent would be compromised. The letter was forwarded, and it did not take long to learn that the Cambridge professor remained as touchy as ever. Newton wrote Oldenburg that Linus, an 80-year-old professor of Hebrew and mathematics, had gotten it all wrong, just as his fellow Jesuit Pardies had.

He quickly set about determining these angles, or sines, a further vindication of his vision that nature operates according to precise mathematical principles. The experimentum crucis led to another, equally powerful, insight. Newton observed each ray as it passed through the sec- 42 Of Genius, Fire, and Plague ond prism. Just as he suspected, blue remained blue, orange remained orange, and so forth. He rotated the prism and still each color remained the same. If colors were nothing but modifications of white light, as had long been believed, the second prism should have produced other colors by turning red to orange or blue to indigo, but it did not.

And as the Earth, so perhaps may the sun imbibe this spirit to conserve his shining and keep the planets from receding further from him, and . . " Newton sought to explain gravity not only in terms of the ethereal medium but in terms of other equally puzzling phenomena. Such phenomena included cohesion, or the mutual attraction by which the various elements of a body are held together, and animal sensation, or what we now call feelings generated in the nervous system. Finally, he filled the paper with detailed accounts of many experiments designed to reinforce his soaring hypothesis.

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