Isaac Newton's notebooks open digital doors

The University of Cambridge has digitized a portion of Isaac Newton's papers, letting anyone see the mathematics and experiments of the famed scientist.

An instant classic: Sir Isaac Newton's Principia laid out his the mathematical foundation for gravity and the laws of motion. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is allowing outsiders to (figuratively) get into Sir Isaac Newton's head.

The Cambridge University Library today published scanned papers from the famed scientist, including some of the mathematics he developed to arrive at the principles of what are now called "Newtonian physics." The university, where Newton spent many of of his student and working years, plans to publish most of the papers it holds in digital format over time.

The first selection includes hand-written manuscripts on his mathematical work from the 1660s as well as Newton's own first edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathemetica. Shortened to Principia, the book laid out the mathematical underpinnings for the laws of motion and the existence of gravity as a force. Published in 1687, it brought Newton international renown.

Also included are books from Newton's student days at Cambridge, his later studies on optics, and the "Waste Book," a notebook in which he developed calculus. The contents of the book, which Newton worked on for decades, will be transcribed in early 2012.

The digital papers are a treasure trove for people curious how Newton came to arrive at his ground-breaking ideas. "Anyone, wherever they are, can see at the click of a mouse how Newton worked and how he went about developing his theories and experiments," Grant Young, the library's digitization manager told CNN.

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About the author

Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.

 

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