An Important Birthday Today, I Hear…

…of a fatherless boy,¹ so precariously brought into this world that as his mother lay on her birthing bed, it seemed unlikely so ill-conceived a child could live.²

But he did, and as his contemporaries bore witness, he would fashion miracles in their season.  As proclaimed by one of those who spread the good news — that which in Greek Old English we would call a gospel — “No closer to the gods can any mortal rise.”³

I’m talking about Isaac Newton of course.*  You were thinking of someone else?

Happy Newtonmas everyone!**

(Footnotes below the jump.)

1:  His father, also Isaac, died whilst Hanna Newton was pregnant with their son.

2:  His nurse recalled that at birth, Isaac fit into a quart pot. So unsure was the family of his survival that he remained unbaptized for three unchristened for one week.

3:  From Edmund Halley’s prefatory ode printed in the first edition of The Principia.

*You can read a bit more on Newton in this post I wrote a couple of years ago over at Executed Today about his less well known life as a cop.  But on t his, his birthday, it probably makes more sense to ponder this work, and recall that when “Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night/God said, Let Newton Be! and all was light.”

**This is always just a bit of a waffle.  Isaac  Newton’s Christmas birthday occurs in the Old-Style or Julian calendar still in use in England in 1641.  But given the arbitrary nature of the assignment of 25 Dec. as Jesus’s birthday, I don’t see much point in trying to maintain calendrical purity here.

Image: William Blake, Isaac Newton,  1795






19 replies
  1. 1
    SIA says:

    Well done.

  2. 2
    Mnemosyne says:

    I always find the whole “Newtonmas” construction hilarious since Newton himself was a mystic, an alchemist, and a devout Christian.

  3. 3
    Origuy says:

    Newton and the Counterfeiter is already on my stack of books to read.

  4. 4
    Cermet says:

    Also the first human to conceive of a satellite orbit around the Earth.

  5. 5
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: True. Of course, Jesus was a Jew, so there’s no good reason why the venerated figure and his later adherents have to uphold all the same doctrines…

  6. 6
    sempronia says:

    This was an awesome post.

  7. 7
    Mnemosyne says:

    Flip @ #5 (reply function sux on iPod Touch):

    My point is more that I find it funny that most of the people who celebrate “Newtonmas” do it as a demonstration of their devotion to pure rationality and atheism and ignore the actual beliefs of the guy they’re supposedly celebrating. Which kinda makes their complaints about religious people ignoring inconvenient facts ring a bit hollow to me. YMMV, of course.

  8. 8
    Roy G says:

    And later, he gave his name to an even more important* figure – Newton Leroy Gingrich.

    *self important

  9. 9
    (another) Josh says:

    Never heard of “Newtonmas” before: I like it. And, as Flip tried to explain, there’s no reason why Voltaire and others who celebrate Newton’s best-known accomplishments should be expected to defer to his religious beliefs, any more than one should ask admirers of Marx to show their loyalty to the guy by saying harsh things about Jews and making fun of gay liberation.

  10. 10

    @Mnemosyne:

    Newton himself was a mystic, an alchemist, and a devout Christian.

    He may have been a devout Christian, but he was definitely not an orthodox one. He was apparently not a trinitarian and may even have denied Christ’s divinity, so maybe it isn’t that bad to substitute Christmas with Newtonmas.

  11. 11
    THE says:

    The true bringer of light to the world.

    But I really feel a Newtonmas tree should be an apple tree.

  12. 12
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    Merry Watchamahoozit to all! ;)

    I fired up the laptop and noticed that one of the tabs in my browser had an interesting description on it; “Day Two of the Great VAG”.

    The tab is on Redstate. That really made me lol!

  13. 13
    Oriscus says:

    “Gospel” isn’t Greek, but Old English. The root-words modernize to “Good Spiel.”

    “Evangelion” is the Greek.

  14. 14
    Oriscus says:

    & I’m a revolting pedant

  15. 15
    Brachiator says:

    @Oriscus:

    “Evangelion” is the Greek

    And here I thought this was the title of an anime series.

    Revere Newton. Love Blake.

  16. 16
    LowProfileinGA says:

    @Oriscus Thank you.

  17. 17
    Betsy says:

    His nurse recalled that at birth, Isaac fit into a quart pot. So unsure was the family of his survival that he remained unbaptized for three weeks.

    Wouldn’t that be a reason to *rush* his baptism, rather than delay it?

  18. 18
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Oriscus: Not a pedant; accurate. Fixt above. I actually once knew this properly, but in haste today, racing to my in-laws for the holiday, I fell back on muscle memory rather than the sources. Alas.
    @Betsy: amended; see above. Same excuse as offered to Oriscus.

  19. 19
    bjacques says:

    May I submit this as a Newtonmas carol?

    Jim Carroll Band’s “Wicked Gravity”

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