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Sotheby's Paul Quarrie
Newton was the greatest physical scientist
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The BBC's Christine McGourty
Scholars will be able to study the papers for the first time
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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Newton papers revealed
Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton lectured for many years at Cambridge University
Rare papers belonging to the 17th century scientist Sir Isaac Newton could go on public display for the first time, if Cambridge University, where Newton once lectured, wins its campaign to buy them.

The unique collection of notes, including workings behind Newton's theories on gravity and light, were revealed on Wednesday at Sotheby's auction house, London.

Cambridge University is appealing for funds to buy the major archive of Newton's writings and ideas, worth more than 6m.

If it succeeds, most of Newton's scientific papers, including those already held in the library at Cambridge, will be reunited in the place where Newton carried out much of his groundbreaking research.

Paul Quarrie, senior specialist in the book department at Sotheby's, said it would be appropriate for the papers to go to Cambridge University.

"It was in Cambridge that Newton thought and made his great discoveries," he told the BBC.

"It would ensure the conservation of the papers of one of England's greatest minds in that university of which for so many years he was an important figure."

Gravity theory

Sir Isaac Newton, a physicist and mathematician, laid the foundations for modern science.

His theories on mathematics, optics and gravity have shaped our thinking for over 300 years.

The mass of papers he left after his death in 1727 were divided into two main collections, one of which was presented to the university a hundred years later.
Newton's notes
The papers include Newton's writings and ideas on gravitation

The new papers contain notes for Newton's masterwork, the Principia Mathematica, which first set out his gravitational theories, as well as ideas on calculus, optics and other subjects.

The collection is being offered by the Earl of Macclesfield, through Sotheby's, for 6.37m.

Cambridge University said the UK Heritage Lottery Fund had promised to put up 75% of the money needed.

But they need a further 1.58m to complete the purchase.

Peter Fox, university librarian at Cambridge, said bringing the two collections together would be of great interest to both the public and scholars.

"If we can't raise this money, the danger is that the collection might go abroad and be split amongst private collectors," he said.

"This would be a tragedy for scholars and a great loss for the nation as a whole."

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01 Oct 98 | Education
7.5m library gift for Cambridge
29 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Einstein the greatest
02 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
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