Sir Isaac Newton’s revolutionary work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which was first published on July 5, 1687, presented the world with three volumes that would quickly form the basis of modern physics with its laws of motion, universal gravitation, and planetary motion.
While obviously written for a contemporary 18th century scholarly audience – in classical Latin, at that – the Principia holds a great deal of scientific wisdom that holds as true today as it did in Newton’s day.
What many people don’t know about Newton is that his true passion lay not in the area of natural philosophy that we would call physics, but rather in the Hermetic art of alchemy. Indeed, given that Newton himself thought that Pythagoras had already worked out the mechanics of gravity, it seems that he saw his true destiny in the realization of the alchemical goal of transmutation.
Newton’s contribution to modern scientific thought lies mainly in his commitment to the discovery of the fundamental truths of existence. He carried forward a long tradition of atomism, the belief that a fundamental source gives birth to all matter and energy, and his commitment to a reverential view of the Universe speaks to his deep insight.