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Cats, dogs and other animals


At Trinity College, Newton owned a cat, according to his niece, which grew fat on the meals he ignored due to studying (Keynes MS 130.6, Book 2.)

Newton is also often credited with the invention of the catflap! This story seems to be quite common on the Internet in the cats and urban legend newsgroups. (I haven't any printed references to this and would really like to hear from anyone who does.)


There is a persistant story that Newton owned a dog called Diamond which overturned a lighted candle and burnt many of Newton's papers. This often appears in dictionaries of quotations as ``Oh Diamond! Diamond! thou little knowest the mischief done''. However, it relies on the single source of Thomas Maude who claimed to have heard it from ``someone'' still alive in 1780 (Wensleydale; or Rural Contemplation, third edition, 1780) and as such, is only a third hand tale about events a hundred years before.

Nevertheless, he does seem to have had a dog in London. At a meeting of the Royal Society on 24th December 1719, he mentioned she had recently gone blind with cataracts.

Other animals

As one would expect of the lord of the manor of Woolsthorpe in rural Lincolnshire, Newton could ride a horse, and presumably rode between Woolsthorpe, Cambridge and London. One could hire a horse for a one way journey and leave it at a livery stable, where it would be hired to someone travelling in the opposite direction. (This is the origin of Hobson's Choice, since the Cambridge liveryman Thomas Hobson (1544-1631) insisted each customer must take the horse nearest the stable door or none.)

Westfall has noted (Never at Rest p850) that Newton would not eat rabbits because they were strangled, and that he considered ``abstention from cruelty to animals as a moral command almost on a par with love of neighbor.'' In this light, Villamil's comment that Newton neither liked nor disliked animals, seems overcautious.

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