Stephenson Family Ties The Barn Burnt Down
And Now I See The Moon
Isaac Newton was a decidedly odd figure- brilliant beyond measure, but solitary, joyless, prickly to the point of paranoia, famously distracted (upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would reportedly sometimes sit for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of thoughts to his head), and capable of the most riveting strangeness.  He built his own laboratory, the first at Cambridge, but then engaged in the most bizarre experiments.  Once he inserted a bodkin- a long needle of the sort used for sewing leather- into his eye socket and rubbed it around "betwixt my eye and the bone as near to the backside of my eye as I could" just to see what would happen.  What happened, miraculously, was nothing, at least nothing lasting.  On another occasion, he stared at the Sun for as long as he could bear, to determine what effect it would have upon his vision.  Again he escaped lasting damage, though he had to spend some days in a darkened room before his eyes forgave him.
Set a top these odd beliefs and quirky traits, however, was the mind of a supreme genius- though even when working in conventional channels he often showed a  tendency to peculiarity.  As a student, frustrated by the limitations of conventional mathematics, he invented an entirely new form, the calculus, but then told no one about if for 27 years.  In like manner, he did work in optics that transformed our understanding of light and laid the foundation for the science of spectroscopy, and again chose not to share the results for three decades.

Happy Birthday Isaac!! We embrace peculiarity!!!!

from: A Short History of Nearly Everything  by Bill Bryson
Godfrey Kneller's 1689 portrait of Isaac Newton

The monument overlooking his burial place in Westminster Abbey has this to say about Isaac:
"Here is buried Isaac Newton, Knight, who by a strength of mind almost divine, and mathematical principles peculiarly his own, explored the course and figures of the planets, the paths of comets, the tides of the sea, the dissimilarities of rays of light....Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race."

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