Newton and Eighteenth-century Cambridge
Isaac Newton, Principia (London, 1687)
During the eighteenth century and after, Isaac Newton’s ground breaking 'Principia' and 'Opticks' would prove profoundly influential across Europe and beyond. In the Principia he offered a comprehensive account of the forces holding the solar system together, along with his trailblazing idea of universal gravitation (‘every particle of the universe being attracted to every other with a force varying directly as the product of their masses and inversely as the square of their distance’). Although, due to its complexity and the fact that it was written in Latin, the book itself was understood by few, the general precepts underlying it as commonly understood came to dominate eighteenth-century ideas concerning not just nature, but diverse avenues of human enquiry. Perhaps nowhere was this less so than in Cambridge.