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Newton’s Apple by Quentin Blake; image from Isaac Newton Trust: https://www.newtontrust.cam.ac.uk

Project (2018-)

Though their Causes be not yet discover'd": Occult Traditions in the Making of Newton's Natural Philosophy

My dissertation provides a preliminary attempt to show how Newton’s natural philosophy can be seen to have emerged from the work of his predecessors. The thesis is essentially an exercise in the intellectual history of science, and its main concern is with what was perceived to be problematic physical phenomena in the early modern period as well as the natural philosophical solutions that English thinkers brought to bear on solving those problems.

The dissertation focuses on two important aspects of the story. Firstly, it concentrates on the English background to Newton’s work. There is a case to be made for the claim that differences between the philosophical scene in England and on the Continent, made a Newton possible, but also ensured that Newton had to be English. Secondly, the aim is to focus on occult traditions in the making of Newton’s natural philosophy. If it is not already clear that Newton was prepared to accept occult ideas and to incorporate them into his natural philosophy, then this thesis aims to establish that that was indeed the case.