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281 years ago today

by JP Bill / March 20, 2008 3:33 AM PDT
Newton's Death and Legacy

By the end of his life, Newton was one of the most famous men in England, his pre-eminence in matters scientific unchallenged. He had also become a wealthy man; he invested his substantial income wisely, and had enough to make sizable gifts to charity and leave a small fortune behind in his will. Whether he was happy is another question. He had never made friends easily, and in his later years his peculiar combination of pride, insecurity, and distraction seems to have interfered with his relationships. He never married, and lived as the "monk of science," having channeled all his sexual energy into his work. His only close relationships with women were familial: with his niece, with whom he lived for some years, and much earlier, with his mother, who had died in 1679. Around 1700 he had briefly courted a wealthy widow, but nothing came of it.


In old age Newton's health began to deteriorate: whe was eighty he began to suffer from incontinence, due to a weakness in the bladder, and his movement and diet became restricted. He ate mainly vegetables and broth, and was plagued by a stone in the bladder. In 1725 he fell ill with gout, and endured hemorrhoids the following year. Meanwhile, the pain from his bladder stones grew worse, and on March 19, 1727, he blacked out, never to regain consciousness. He died on March 20, at the age of eighty-five, and was buried in Westminster Abbey; his funeral attended by all of England's eminent figures, and his coffin carried by noblemen. It was, a contemporary noted, a funeral fit for a king.



They didn't realize the gravity of his illness.
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