Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > History of Science, Mathematics, Technology > 164. Isaac Newton

164.  Isaac Newton (1642-1727).  The Three Mysterious Fires: Commentary on Monte -Snyder's Tractatus de Medicina Universali. Autograph manuscript, 3 pp., after 1678. RBML, Smith Historical Manuscripts

In addition to his many renowned contributions to mathematics, physics and astronomy, such as the discovery of the law of universal gravitation, the invention of calculus, the construction of the first reflecting telescope, and the first analysis of white light, Sir Isaac Newton devoted many years of his life to chemistry, alchemy and metallurgy. For 250 years after his death, his manuscripts and books lay in a large chest into which he placed them in 1696 when he became Master of the Mint. They remained untouched until 1872 when Newton's heirs donated his papers to Cambridge University. After the University Library accessioned those items of scientific interest, they returned to the family all personal items, including the alchemical manuscripts. In 1936 these "personal papers" were dispersed at auction. This manuscript, a commentary on Johann de Monte-Snyder's Tractatus de medicina universali (1678), testifies to the depth to which Newton pursued studies in alchemy.

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