July 1, 2005

Lost notes on alchemy by Isaac Newton found

LONDON (Reuters) - A collection of notes by the 17thcentury English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton,that scientists thought had been lost forever, have been found.

The notes on alchemy were originally discovered afterNewton's death in 1727 but were lost after they were sold atauction in July 1936 for 15 pounds ($27).

They were found while researchers were cataloguingmanuscripts at the Royal Society, Britain's academy of leadingscientists.

"This is a hugely exciting find for Newton scholars and forhistorians of science in general," Dr John Young, of London'sImperial College Newton Project, said in a statement on Friday.

Newton's celebrated work "Philosophiae Naturalis PrincipiaMathematica" (or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy)is considered one of the most important works in the history ofmodern science.

In it he formulates the three laws of motion and that ofgravity.

Some scientists in Newton's time believed alchemy held thesecret of how to transform base metals into silver or gold.Newton's notes were written in English in his own handwriting.

"It provides vital evidence about the alchemical authorsNewton was reading, and the alchemical theories he wasinvestigating in the last decades of the 17th century," Youngadded.

The notes will be on display at the Royal Society's annualSummer Science Exhibition in London which begins on July 4.