"Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life" - William Stukeley 1752


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windmills "Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life" - William Stukeley 1752

William Stukeley's memoir about Sir Isaac Newton was completed in 1752. The handwritten manuscript has recently been made available via Turning the Pages at the Royal Society's website.

Newton had experience of windmills, and the memoirs talk of the model windmill that Newton constructed:
they remember particularly, that a new windmill, about that time, was set up in the way to Gunnerby; which is now demolished. a windmill is a sort of rarity in this country, abounding so much with rivers, & brooks: for which reason they chiefly use watermills. a walk to this new windmil was the usual amusement of the town of Grantham. the multitude return'd with some satisfaction to thir curiosity, but little improvement in thir understanding, & it was the comon rendezvous of the schoolboys. Newton's innate fire was soon excited, he penetrated beyond the superficial view of the thing. he was daily with the workmen, carefully observed the progress, the manner of every part of it, & the connexion of the whole. he obtain'd so exact a notion of the mechanism of it, that he made a true, & perfect model of it, in wood. & it was said to be as clean a piece of workmanship, as the original.

this sometime he would fasten upon the housetop, where he lodged: & clothing it with bits of cloth, for sails, the wind would readily take it. but Isaac was not content with this bare imitation: his spirit prompted him to goe beyond his prototype. & he added an extraordinary composition to it. he could put a mouse into it, which work'd it as naturally as the wind. this he used to style his mouse-miller. & complain'd jokingly, what a thief he was; for he eat up all the corn put into the mill.

I made inquiry, what they knew concerning the art, & contrivance of it. some said, he ty'd a string to the mouse, & pulling by it, made the mouse turn the mill. some said, the mouse ran round a wheel like that of a turnspit: and that the hopper emptyed it self with the ground corn in his sight; therefore it always endevord to come to it, & then turn'd the wheel. however it was a piece of diversion, to not a little part of the town & country, to pay a visit to Isaac's mouse miller, & the farmers readily supplyd him with handfuls of corn, on market days.
These details come on the pages labelled 34, facing 35, 35, 36. The full memoirs are transcribed at The Newton Project.

Stukeley refined his text over many years - an earlier version of the same windmill story was included in a version of the memoirs set to Richard Mead in 1727 (just weeks after Newton's death), and now in the Kings College Library, Cambridge. This version reads:
about this time a new windmill was set up near Grantham in the way to Gunnerby, which is now demolished, this country chiefly using watermills. our lads imitating spirit was soon excited & by frequently prying into the fabric of it, as they were making it, he became master enough to make a very perfect model thereof, & it was said to be as clean & curious a piece of workmanship as the original. this sometime he would set upon the house top where he lodg'd, & clothing it with sailcloth the wind would readily take it. but what was most extraordinary in its composition, was, that he put a mouse into it which he calld the miller, & that the mouse made the mill turn round, when he pleasd, & he would joke too upon the miller eating the corn that was put in. some say he tyd a string to the mouses tail, which was put into a wheel like that of turnspit dogs, so that pulling the string made the mouse goe forward by way of resistance, & this turn'd the mill. others suppose there was some corn plac'd above the wheel, this the mouse endeavoring to get to, made it turn.
Again a full transcription is available at The Newton Project.
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Item: #751, Posted: 19/1/10.


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