This essay examines the myth of Isaac Newton's modesty in eighteenth‐century Britain. By analyzing both primary sources by and on Newton and scholarship on the concept of “modest witnessing,” this essay argues that a number of actors concerned with Newton's public relevance progressively divested his scientific ideas of mathematics with the goal of smoothing their dogmatic edges and making them more accessible to the polite public. This process, it will be claimed, resulted in creating the myth of the modest Newton, the genius who had discovered the secrets of nature and made them available for the public good.
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Research Article| September 01 2023
Alessio Mattana; The Modest Genius: Mathematics, Certainty, and the Creation of the Public Newton. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 September 2023; 47 (3): 30–62. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-10690080
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