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Newton and Cambridge

Newton was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1661 and lived there until he moved to London in 1696. There is a separate page about Trinity and this page concentrates on other colleges and university institutions relevant to Newton.

Newton's first major involvement with the University rather than the College was his election to the Lucasian chair of mathematics in 1669. He followed his mentor (but not tutor) Isaac Barrow, who had recommended him. The professor was required to lecture on ``some part of Geometry, Astronomy, Geography, Optics, Statics or some other Mathematical discipline'' and has been held by many eminent applied mathematicians and theoretical physicists since then. Newton gave up the chair in 1701, 5 years after he had moved to London.

Newton was twice a member of Parliament for Cambridge University, first in 1689 and then in 1701. He failed to be elected in 1705 despite receiving a knighthood.

Newton's papers passed to the Portsmouth family through his niece, Catherine Barton. The fifth Earl of Portsmouth, appropriately Isaac Newton Wallop, decided to give the scientific papers to Cambridge and a lengthy process of cataloging followed, finishing in 1888. Consequently, the University Library now holds the largest collection of Newtonian papers, including essentially all those about mathematics or physics.

Despite the potential disaster in 1936 when the Portsmouth family sold all the remaining papers at a public auction, John Maynard Keynes the economist bought most of the alchemy manuscripts and Conduitt's biographical notes based on conversations with Newton. He donated these to the library of King's College, Cambridge, where they now form the Keynes MS.

More about Cambridge


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