Isaac Newton in popular culture

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Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, natural philosopher, theologian, alchemist and one of the most influential scientists in human history. His Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica is considered to be one of the most influential books in the history of science, laying the groundwork for most of classical mechanics by describing universal gravitation and the three laws of motion. In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of the differential and integral calculus.


Because of the resounding impact of his work, Newton became a science icon, as did Albert Einstein after publishing his theory of relativity more than 200 years later. [1] [2] [3] Many books, plays, and films focus on Newton or use Newton as a literary device. Newton's stature among scientists remains at the very top rank, as demonstrated by a 2005 survey of scientists in Britain's Royal Society (formerly headed by Newton) asking who had the greater effect on the history of science, Newton or Albert Einstein. Newton was deemed the more influential. [4] In 1999, leading physicists voted Albert Einstein "greatest physicist ever"; Newton was the runner-up. [5]

Visual arts


The statue of Newton, located in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge StatueOfIsaacNewton.jpg
The statue of Newton, located in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge

English poet Alexander Pope was moved by Newton's accomplishments to write the famous epitaph: [8]

Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said "Let Newton be" and all was light.

English poet J. C. Squire satirised this: [9]

It could not last; the Devil shouting "Ho!
Let Einstein be!" restored the status quo.

The following passage is from William Wordsworth's The Prelude , in which he describes a marble statue of Newton at Trinity College, Cambridge: [10]

And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.


Books about Newton

Books featuring Newton as a character

Books featuring Newton as a plot element


TV and radio

Films and video


25 December is the birthday of one of the truly great men ever to walk the earth. His achievements might justly be celebrated wherever his truths hold sway. And that means from one end of the universe to the other. Happy Newton Day!

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and prominent atheist [18]

Some atheists, sceptics, and others have referred to 25 December as Newtonmas, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Christmas. Celebrants send cards with "Reason's Greetings!" printed inside, and exchange boxes of apples and science-related items as gifts. The celebration may have had its origin in a meeting of the Newton Association at Christmas 1890 to talk, distribute gifts, and share laughter and good cheer. The name Newtonmas can be attributed to The Skeptics Society, which needed an alternative name for its Christmas party. [19] Another name for this holiday is Gravmas (also spelt Gravmass or Grav-mass) which is an abbreviation of "gravitational mass" due to Newton's Theory of Gravitation. [20]

On 25 December 2014, American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted:

On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec. 25, 1642.

In a subsequent interview, Tyson denied being "anti-Christian", noting that Jesus' true birthdate is unknown. [21]

Newton's birthday was 25 December under the Old Style Julian Calendar used in Protestant England at the time, but was 4 January under the New Style Gregorian Calendar used simultaneously in Catholic Europe. The period between has been proposed for a holiday season called "10 Days of Newton" to commemorate this. [22]

See also

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  1. Mann, Adrian (14 May 2014). "The Strange, Secret History of Isaac Newton's Papers". .
  2. Yeo, R. (2008). "Genius, Method, and Morality: Images of Newton in Britain, 1760–1860". Science in Context . 2 (2): 257–284. doi:10.1017/S0269889700000594.
  3. Fara, P. (2002). Newton: The making of genius . London: Picador. ISBN   978-0231128063.
  4. "Newton beats Einstein in polls of scientists and the public". The Royal Society. 23 November 2005.
  5. "Einstein "greatest physicist ever;" Newton runner-up". BBC News. 29 November 1999.
  6. Isaac Newton, Blake, William, Web Gallery of Art
  7. "'Newton', Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, 1988". Tate.
  10. J. Robert Barth (2003). Romanticism and Transcendence: Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the Religious Imagination . University of Missouri Press. p.  19. ISBN   978-0-8262-1453-9.
  11. "HPSC 109. Lecture 15. The Romantic Reaction 1: Romanticism and the Revolt Against Newtonianism". Archived from the original on 12 May 2004. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  12. James Thomson. "A Poem Sacred to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton". Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  13. Carol Rumens (26 January 2009). "Poem of the week: The Movement of Bodies". The Guardian . London. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  14. Plays, MathFiction
  15. Tei, Andrew (5 July 2002). "Anime Expo Friday Report". Archived from the original on 27 July 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2008. Q) Where did the idea to use Isaac Newton as a model for Dornkirk (leader of Zaibach) come from? A) Kawamori answers by saying that Newton was an alchemist and wrote a book on alchemy. Kawamori came up with the theory that Newton discovered the "power" [of Atlantis]. He designed Dornkirk as not a bad guy.
  16. Me & Isaac Newton,
  17. Me & Isaac Newton, Monsters at Play Archived 11 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Dawkins, Richard (13 December 2007). "Happy Newton Day! - December 25th is a date to celebrate not because it is the disputed birthday of the "son of God" but". New Statesman . Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  19. Winston, Kimberly (16 December 2011). "On Dec. 25, atheists celebrate a different birthday". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 19 December 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
  20. Stallman, Richard M. "Celebrate Grav-Mass" . Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  21. Bauder, David (7 January 2015). "Neil deGrasse Tyson Says He's Not Anti-Christian". Archived from the original on 8 January 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  22. Judson, Olivia (23 December 2008). "The 10 Days of Newton". The New York Times.

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