January 18, 2010 at 9:35 PM by Dr. Drang
I’ve seen several links to this article at Scientific American today, and I really don’t understand why. The Royal Society has made a scan of the original handwritten manuscript of William Stukeley’s Life of Newton available for viewing on the internet, and all the linkers to think this is some new confirmation of the story that Newton was inspired to develop the law of gravity from watching the fall of an apple. It doesn’t.
Read the SciAm article and tell me:
- Is this a newly found memoir? No, Stukeley published it in 1752 and its text has been available on the internet for years.
- Does the handwritten manuscript differ from the known text? No, there’s no claim of that.
- Have we learned something new about Newton’s inspiration? No, we just have a new way of looking at an old memoir.1
I know professional bloggers have a tendency to exaggerate to get pageviews, but why should I trust—and continue to read—anyone who can’t even properly summarize a four-paragraph story?
One new thing I have learned is that the Royal Society hates me. Their preferred, super-duper way of reading Stukeley’s manuscript is through a program that doesn’t run on a Mac. The next best way is to install a bunch of Silverlight crapware (which wouldn’t work on my iBook, anyway, because Silverlight is Intel-only). The so-distasteful-they-can-barely-stand-it way is to just look at a bunch of JPEGs, which they’ve laid out in a series of pages that take an inordinate number of mouse clicks to navigate. ↩︎