Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Isaac Newton and Pathology in Body Mind Spirit Integration

Most of us excel in one or two layers of intelligence. These are our strengths. Part of developing body brilliance involves a realistic assessment of your best talents so that you can build on that foundation. But don’t overlook the areas that suffer from neglect or intentional (God forbid pathological) wrongheadedness.

Perhaps one of the world’s greatest scientific minds belonged to Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727). Young Isaac was expected to continue the management of his father’s farm, but Isaac had bigger dreams. He worked his way through Trinity College, Cambridge University, keeping a notebook of his observations and experiments in subjects barely covered by his professors. He taught himself trigonometry to better understand astrology (then a legitimate science) and studied chemistry and alchemy.

But like many other geniuses, Newton’s brilliant analytical mind was often overshadowed by his anger, insecurity, pride, obsessiveness and vengeful nature. The infant Isaac wasn’t expected to even live, much less become famous. He was born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, to Hannah Ayscough Newton; his father, Isaac Senior, died three months before his birth. Within two years the young widow had married a well-to-do minister named Barnabas Smith and moved away to start a new family. His grandmother raised young Isaac until Smith died in 1653, when his mother returned and tried to resume relations with her son, failing miserably. Isaac hated his mother and stepfather, and later biographers attributed his psychotic behaviors to his early abandonment.

By 1671 Newton had invented a reflecting telescope. Prior to Newton’s work, telescope lenses refracted light (broke the light into its color components) which made looking at the heavens difficult. The Royal Society, purveyor of all the new scientific discoveries in England, asked for a demonstration, and Newton published his findings in a paper entitled Opticks. Society member Robert Hooke criticized some of Newton’s findings. Newton was so offended that he withdrew from public debate about his work and counted Hooke his enemy until the man died.

Newton published a second tract on colors in 1675, but Hooke claimed Newton had stolen his ideas. Newton lashed out at Hooke again, and also vented his spleen at a group of English Jesuits that questioned his theories. Angry, formal correspondence between Newton and the Jesuits continued until 1678, at which time Newton sent one last furious letter, suffered a nervous breakdown, and then said no more. Newton’s mother died the next year, adding to the man’s anguish. He retreated into his laboratory for six years.

In 1687 Newton published the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, perhaps the greatest work on mathematics, physics and scientific method ever written, in which Newton laid out the three laws of motion. Newton did not discover gravity by observing a falling apple, but the great thinker did relate gravitational pull to elliptical planetary orbits.

Newton taught mathematics at Trinity College for many years but eventually grew tired of the students. He became Warden of the Royal Mint in 1696. Newton’s later years were devoted to his duties at the Mint and study of the Bible. He also served in Parliament. As Warden of the Mint he oversaw the “great recoinage,” and when Newton rose to Master in 1699 he took particular relish in pursuing counterfeiters and anyone debasing the currency. Seeking counterfeiters in the taverns and brothels of London gave Newton a socially acceptable way to vent his rage, and he sent many to the gallows.

Newton served as president of Britain’s Royal Society, whose members represented the best and brightest of the kingdom’s scientists and researchers, from 1703 until his death in 1727. Queen Anne knighted Newton in 1705, the first scientist so honored.

Sir Isaac Newton presented a classic example of near-pathological imbalance. Although his latter years were marred by the grudges and jealousies he harbored against his fellow scientists, Newton never lost his faith in what he believed was the kernel of incontrovertibility in scientific method: the true North of his own mental compass. Sadly, such a great man was rationally brilliant but emotionally stunted.

Love your way,

Alan Davidson, founder of
and author of Body Brilliance:
Mastering Your Five Vital
Intelligences (IQs)’

Watch the Body Brilliance Movie

Dedicated to our healthy, happy, and prosperous world through the full enlightenment of every human being.

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