Newton states laws of motion and gravity in Principia Mathematica 1686-1687

Alternatively titled “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” why the heck is that significant to your family history…?

The impact of not only the maths and science contained in this document had a massive impact on how the world and in particular English society developed. The period of the Enlightement, was key in seeding thoughts and values which were to spark leaders of thought and the subsequent good deeds for the next several hundred years, and still do so today. The intellectual rigour, rational method and principles of scientific method were of fundamental significance to the world your family would inhabit.

Intriguing Connections between Newton, John Locke, Lord Shaftesbury and Florence Nightingale, the impact of the enlightenment period on society and social reform…

  • The influence is close and a specific example is that John Locke ,the English philosopher, used the work of Newton to inform his thinking on natural laws and intrinsic rights and rational thinking.
  • John Locke becomes associated (with his enlightened thinking) with Lord Shaftesbury, who was as 7th earl, in a position in a philanthropic role to influence campaign and shape the society.
  • He directly influences Social Reform and Change campaigning for acts of parliament, rights of children, is a champion of the Union of Ragged Free Schools Union for the Poor and a supporter of Florence Nightingale.


Galileo, Boyle, and Newton principally inspired the philosophers of the Enlightenment  period with reference to the concept of nature and natural law to every physical and social subject of the time.  

It was Newton’s conception of the Universe based upon Natural and rationally understandable laws that became one of the seeds for Enlightenment ideology, as examples;

  • Locke and Voltaire applied concepts of Natural Law to political systems advocating intrinsic rights
  • Adam Smith the economist applied Natural conceptions of psychology and self-interest to economic systems

“It was perhaps the force of the ‘Principia’, which revealed so many different things about the natural world with such economy, that caused this method to become synonymous with physics, even as it is practiced almost three and a half centuries after its beginning. Today the two methodological aspects that Newton outlined could be called analysis and synthesis.”

  •  first published 5 July 1687 plus two further editions 1713 and 1726, it is regarded as one of the most important documents in the history of science and was relied upon and inspired much of the thinking of the the philosophers of the Enlightenment period.
  • The world was not the centre of the solar system never mind the universe…
  • states the principles of the Newton’s laws of motion, which forms the foundation of classical mechanics, also Newton’s law of universal gravitation, also derived from Kepler’s empirically derived laws of planetary motion
  • it established the existence of science in  a way that no other pre-existing document had established
  • By the third edition Newton had included four rules of philosophy, which codify his scientific method and approach:
    • Rule 1: ‘We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.’
    • Rule 2: ‘Therefore to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes.’
    • Rule 3: ‘The qualities of bodies, which admit neither intensification nor remission of degrees, and which are found to belong to all bodies within the reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever.’
    • Rule 4: ‘In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions inferred by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, not withstanding any contrary hypothesis that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.
“Isaac Newton’s statement of the four rules revolutionized the investigation of phenomena. With these rules, Newton could in principle begin to address all of the world’s present unsolved mysteries. He was able to use his new analytical method to replace that of Aristotle, and he was able to use his method to tweak and update Galileo’s experimental method. The re-creation of Galileo’s method has never been significantly changed and in its substance, scientists use it today.”
During the period after leaving Trinity College Cambridge, Newton had returned for the two years when he was composing Principia to Woolsthrope in Lincolnshire, with a view to avoiding the ravages of the Great Plague both in London and Cambridge, we might have waited a long-time for the progress his work brought, if he had not avoided the plague. This was his family home did you have any relatives living in the area?

For more on the Period of the Enlightenment click here

Free Download of the ebook available in the Internet Archive and Gutenberg Projects, click here for Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton published 1686-1687. English translations from the latin can also be found online in paper and ebook formats from the main sources of Amazon, Gutenberg, Book Repository etc…


More on Sir Isaac Newton

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