Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors
Isaac Newton is widely held in the popular imagination to be one of the inventors of modern science. His work on the calculus, gravitation, and optics has made him one of the most famous figures in the history of science; however, it is only relatively recently that his work on less "scientific" matters has reached the public eye. Two of these "less scientific" endeavors, alchemy and the interpretation of biblical prophecy, have been recognized by scholars as highly significant to Newton's thought; however, the relationships of these two pursuits to each other and to Newton's broader intellectual program are the subject of intense debate.
In this thesis, I will use the work of Isaac Newton on alchemy and the interpretation of prophecy as well as the discourses in which he participated as a lens through which to examine some of the methodological, epistemological, and disciplinary underpinnings of early modem understandings of nature. Specifically, I will use his alchemical and prophetic work to argue that the distinction between these two seemingly disparate fields is not inherent in early modem discourse, but is rather largely an artifact of later disciplinary sensibilities. Newton's approaches to alchemy and prophecy share a number of overarching methodological, epistemological, and even theological and eschatological concerns. Just as biology and physics are today understood to be part of a larger program based on their shared methodologies, epistemologies, and social and political values, so too for Newton were alchemy and prophetic exegesis connected.
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Phillips, Jonathan, "The Scientific Revelation: Reading The Books Of Scripture And Nature In Newtonian England" (2011). University Honors Theses. Paper 1013.