Was Newton a scientist?

You might find the answer to that question surprisingly obvious.  If so, you should read the article from Renaissance Mathematicus, in which he suggests that Newton wasn’t a scientist.  The article is here.  Comments, as always, are welcome.

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One Response to Was Newton a scientist?

  1. emma says:

    One of the article’s first points states that Newton cannot have been a scientist because the term was invented after his time. However, as we talked about in one of our first classes this year, while the thinkers of the time did not consider themselves scientists, that does not mean that the work they were doing was completely unrelated to science. They were beginning the thought processes and questions and changes of the Scientific Revolution. Even though he might not have thought like a modern scientist, his ideas and discoveries were important for today’s scientific world, and he, along with others of the time who were considered natural philosophers, were the progenitors for scientists, so I disagree with his point that Newton cannot be considered a scientist.

    However, I do agree with part of his case against Stuart Clark, who posed the question “was Newton a scientist or a sorcerer?” in the sense that he clearly was not a sorcerer (as RMathematicus explains). Perhaps Clark’s word choice of “sorcerer” was RM’s only problem with his point, though, because both Clark and RMathematicus acknowledged that Newton was an alchemist. The point that the authors disagree about is Newton’s belief in spirits. Clark mentions this a few times, but RM clearly does not concur.

    RM acknowledges Newton as a natural philosopher, mathematician, and an alchemist. He explains how the even the question “was Newton a mathematical natural philosopher or an alchemist” is incorrect, because Newton was not one or the other–he used both ways of thinking in his investigations. This is a part of his argument that I agree with.

    While I agree with some of RM’s points against Clark’s question, I still do not come to the exact same conclusion that RM does in his article. I agree that Newton should not just be seen as a “mathematical natural philosopher” or an alchemist, but I just don’t see how RM cannot justify calling Newton a scientist, since Newton as one of many natural philosophers was a scientific forefather in a way.

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