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WAS L. RON HUBBARD SIR ISAAC NEWTON?
ACT - 27
13 November 1993
Editor's Copyright (C) 1993 Homer Wilson Smith
Redistribution rights granted for non commercial purposes.
From a Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Copyright (C) Stephen Hawking 1988 and Bantam Books
All Rights reserved
Isaac Newton was not a pleasant man. His relations with other
academics were notorious, with most of his later life spent embroiled in
heated disputes. Following publication of Principia Mathematica, surely
the most influential book ever written in physics, Newton had risen
rapidly into public prominence. He was appointed president of the Royal
Society and became the first scientist ever to be knighted.
Newton soon clashed with the Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, who
had earlier provided Newton with much needed data for Principia, but was
now withholding information that Newton wanted. Newton would not take
no for an answer; he had himself appointed to the governing body of the
Royal Observatory and then tried to force immediate publication of the
data. Eventually he arranged for Flamsteed's work to be seized and
prepared for publication by Flamsteed's mortal enemy, Edmond Halley.
But Flamsteed took the case to court and, in the nick of time, won a
court order preventing distribution of the stolen work. Newton was
incensed and sought his revenge by systematically deleting all
references to Flamsteed in later editions of Principia.
A more serious dispute arose with the German philosopher Gottfried
Leibniz. Both Leibniz and Newton had independently developed a branch
of mathematics called calculus, which underlies most of modern physics.
Although we now know that Newton discovered calculus years before
Leibniz, he published his work much later. A major row ensued over who
had been first, with scientists vigorously defending both contenders.
It is remarkable, however, that most of the articles appearing in
defense of Newton were originally written by his own hand and only
published in the name of friends! As the row grew, Leibniz made the
mistake of appealing to the Royal Society to resolve the dispute.
Newton, as president, appointed an "impartial" committee to investigate,
coincidentally consisting entirely of Newton's friends! But that was
not all: Newton then wrote the committee's report himself and had the
Royal Society publish it, officially accusing Leibniz of plagiarism.
Still unsatisfied, he then wrote an anonymous review of the report in
the Royal Society's own periodical. Following the death of Leibniz,
Newton is reported to have declared that he had taken great satisfaction
in "breaking Leibniz's heart".
During the period of these two disputes, Newton had already left
Cambridge and academe. He had been active in anti-Catholic politics at
Cambridge, and later in Parliament, and was rewarded eventually with the
lucrative post of Warden of the Royal Mint. Here he used his talents
for deviousness and vitriol in a more socially acceptable way,
successfully conducting a major campaign against counterfeiting, even
sending several men to their death on the gallows.
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