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to one of his friends, that as he had shown considerable talent for the art of design, in many of the ornamental articles he had been in the habit of making, it might be worth his while to try what he could accomplish in a simple style of drawing; for example, in painting a few of those small pictures of saints which were wont to be distributed by the religious orders of the city to the people, on occasion of certain of their solemn processions. The idea was adopted, and Matsys succeeded in his new attempt to the admiration of every body. From that time painting became his profession, and he devoted himself to it with so much zeal and success, as not only to acquire a great deal of reputation in his own day, but to leave several works which are still held in considerable estimation, Among them is one at Windsor, “ The Misers,” which has been often engraved, and certainly deserves all the popularity that has so long been attached to it.-Craik.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON.
ISAAC NEWTON was born at Woolsthorpe, in the parish of Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, on Christmas day, old style, 1642. He was remarkably small and tender, as a child, and it was a saying of his mother, that at that time she could have put him into a quart mug; but, as he grew up, he became robust, and enjoyed the blessing of health and a vigorous constitution till his eightieth year. At twelve years old, having received some previous instruction, he was sent to the grammar school at Grantham, where, like Bacon, at about the same age, he showed remarkable proofs of a gifted and thoughtful mind. Instead of playing with the other boys, he was almost always busied in forming different kinds of models in wood : for this purpose he procured saws, hatchets, ham. mers, and other tools, and even succeeded in producing a wooden clock. The object, however, which chiefly en. gaged his attention, was a new windmill, building near Grantham. Watching the progress of its construction, he made one on a very small scale, which in workmanship was considered equal to the original. When finished, he set it upon the top of the house where he lodged, and
fitting a small piece of linen to each of the sails, saw how the wind turned them. He put a mouse into the mill, and called it the miller ; who, instead of helping to turn the sails, as his master wished, often stopped to eat the corn that was put in to be ground.
We have not room, curious as it might be, to describe all his various plans of this kind, the pursuit of which generally kept him low in his class at school : but little did his master and school-fellows imagine, when noticing the neat kites he flew at Grantham, and the transparent paper lanterns with candles in them, fastened to their tails, which looked at night like so many comets, that the young inventor would one day astonish not only Europe, but the whole world, by his discovery of the intricate though harmonious laws of creation itself, and aid in evincing the wisdom of God in the most wonderful of his works! And still less did his mother dream of this mighty result, when she took him away from school, to help in keeping his late father's farm, and to attend the Saturday market at Grantham. Often, indeed, did he stop between his home and that town, to study some old book under a hedge; or when set about watching sheep, would he sit sadly, though not idly, beneath a tree. It has been said, that a really clever person is seldom altogether idle ; and doubtless, from the period at which Newton could think and reason, his mind was incessantly and profoundly at work.
Such a genius could not long remain concealed; and an uncle, who was a clergyman, and a man ef excellent sense, became the instrument, under Providence, of effectually directing the mind of Newton into the track for which it was formed, by getting him placed at the university. Trinity maintained at that period, as we believe it does now, the leading place among colleges at Cambridge, both in classics and mathematics; and while that royal foundation continues to receive lustre from such names as Lord Bacon, Isaac Barrow, Cotes, Newton, Dryden, Bentley, and Porson, (we refrain from reciting living worthies, of whom there are not a few,) it shows itself at this day not undeserving the place of eminence which it formerly enjoyed. Of this college, in the ever-memorable year 1660, when he was eighteen years old, the great Newton became a member; Dr. Barrow, a Fellow and
Professor, being his friend, and the director of his studies.
Having taken his degrees of Bachelor of Arts in 1664, he was driven from Cambridge in the following year, by the plague, which did not confine its ravages to London. It was at about this period of his absence from the university, perhaps when at Woolsthorp, that the circumstance of an apple falling to the ground from a tree, as he sat beneath it in a garden, gave him the first idea of the law of gravitation, which he afterwards followed out into the most important results. By unwearied application, he is said to have hence determined the principle of motion to the earth, the moon, the several planets, and the comets, in their respective orbits ! One of the best poets of our times, in his Lines on a Tear exquisitely alludes to the application of the same mighty principle to the greatest and the least of things :
" The very law* which moulds a tear,
And bids it trickle from its souce,
And guides the planets in their course."-Rogers. In 1667, Newton, having laid the foundation of his great, work, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, returned to Cambridge, and was elected Fellow of his college. In 1669, he succeeded Barrow, as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, and in 1672 became a Fellow of the Royal Society, an institution then in its infancy, to which he communicated his New Theory of Lights and Colours. This was his favourite discovery, and had, previous to its publication, employed him for thirty years. So early as 1664, he bought a prism at Cambridge, and in 1666 proceeded to try, by means of that simple but valuable instrument, the laws of colours, on the nature and origin of which many and varying notions had existed. It is not within the compass of our present undertaking, to enter fully into this subject, but we will only state, that the grand conclusion drawn by Newton, was, “ that light consists of different rays, some of which are more easily refrangible than others;" that is, “are more easily turned out of their way in passing from
• The law of gravitation.
one transparent body to another; and it follows that, after such refraction, they will be separated, and their distinct colour observed.”
Thus our great philosopher, who is represented in his statue in Trinity College, Cambridge, with the prism in his hand, and whom Thomson well terms the awful Newton," proved that a beam of white light, as emitted from the sun, consists of seven different colours ; namely, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet; for into these seven colours is the beam separated by the prism. This was a startling discovery. “I could never think,” says the celebrated Flamstead, “ that whiteness was a compound of all the different sorts of rays mixed; but, upon trial, I found all the experiments succeeded as Newton related them.”
Strange to say, this theory, when offered to the world, was received, in some quarters, not only with feelings of jealous opposition, but of bitter unkindness towards their author, whose peace of mind was, in consequence, much disturbed ; as appears from the following passage in his letter, to a man of science, dated 1675. “I had some thoughts of writing a further discourse about colours, to be read at one of your assemblies; but find it yet against the grain to put pen to paper any more on that subject :" and in a letter to Leibnitz, a distinguished German astronomer, in the course of the same year, he remarks, “I was so persecuted with discussions arising from the publication of my theory of light, that I blamed my own imprudence for parting with so substantial a blessing as my quiet, to run after a shadow." Nor did his anxieties, arising from the spleen of his enemies, terminate here. He had, indeed, been appointed Master of the Mint in 1699, through the generous influence of the Earl of Halifax, and knighted by Queen Anne in 1705 ; but in 1714, whilst much regarded in the court of George the First, we find him involved in a troublesome quarrel with Leibnitz, who contested with him the credit of a valuable invention in mathematics—that of Fluxions, and who tried to undermine him in the good opinion of the then Princess of Wales, (afterwards Queen-consort of George the Second,) by representing our great philosopher's views not only as false, but as tending to irreligion. Newton, however, is known to have been a firm believer, and a
sincere Christian. His discoveries concerning the frame and system of the universe were applied by him to prove the being of a God, and to illustrate His power and wisdom in the creation. He likewise studied with the utmost attention the Holy Scriptures, and considered several parts of them with critical care, particularly as to the series of prophecies and events relating to the Messiah; and he left behind him an elaborate treatise, to prove that the famous prophecy of Daniel's weeks was an express prediction of the coming of the Messiah, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God.
He was eighty years old, and appeared to be enjoying a green old age, when first seriously attacked by disease. It was then, after many years of robust health, that he was called to suffer agonizing pains, which, though they sometimes caused large drops of perspiration to run down his face, he bore with entire resignation to the will of the Almighty. A delightful instance of his mild and amiable temper is on record, as having occurred in the height of his fame. One day, on his having been called out of his study into an adjoining room, a favourite little dog threw down a lighted candle, by which a quantity of papers, and in them the labour of years, were consumed. When Sir Isaac returned, and noticed the injury he had sustained, he merely rebuked the dog by exclaiming, “O Diamond! Diamond ! thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done !” In proof of the deep sense he entertained of his own insufficiency, and of the Divine perfections, we are told, in Spence's Anecdotes, that once, when complimented on his great discoveries in philosophy, he answered, “ Alas! I am only like a child, picking up pebbles on the shore of the great ocean of truth.” Some amusing anecdotes of what we call absence are also related of him. But it is hardly fair to measure such a mind as Newton's by a common standard : his strength lay in thinking deeply and correctly, not in speaking ; and whilst a member of parliament for the University of Cambridge, for some years, he seldom addressed the House.
This great man, who is well said on the pedestal of his statue, to have“ surpassed all his fellow-men in genius," expired on the 18th of March, 1727.-W. C. Taylor.