Young Isaac Newton’s ‘List of Sins’

by on January 25, 2015

Isaac Newton, the man who effectively gave us, among other things, the theory of motion, light, gravity, optics, and calculus, was a keen diarist – and his notebooks, which he kept throughout his college and latter years, bear testament to this fact. Three years ago, 4000 pages of his diaries and notebooks went online, courtesy of the Cambridge Digital Library.

The Newton Project, a fantastic resource which catalogues Isaac Newton’s notebooks, contains – among others – his college notebooks, lists of daily spending, his ever-expanding books documenting his reflections on philosophy, mathematics and science, and his personal notebooks. These are all available to browse freely on the Newton Project website, with added helpful editorial annotations.

The most intriguing among these is his list documenting his ‘sins’, drawn up in 1662, at which time Newton was 20 years old. The list sheds light on his personal religious beliefs. It is a well-established fact that Isaac Newton was a deeply religious man – he took to a very serious study of the Bible, and later in life, famously experimented with alchemy, even to the extent of actively pursuing the Philosopher’s Stone.

The list gives us a glimpse into the mind of the twenty-year old Newton and what he deemed important at that period of time in his life.

Before Whitsunday 1662.

Vsing the word (God) openly 1
Eating an apple at Thy house 2
Making a feather while on Thy day 3
Denying that I made it. 4
Making a mousetrap on Thy day 5
Contriving of the chimes on Thy day 6
Squirting water on Thy day 7
Making pies on Sunday night 8
Swimming in a kimnel on Thy day 9
Putting a pin in Iohn Keys hat on Thy day to pick him. 10
Carelessly hearing and committing many sermons 11
Refusing to go to the close at my mothers command. 12
Threatning my father and mother Smith to burne them and the house over them 13
Wishing death and hoping it to some 14
Striking many 15
Having uncleane thoughts words and actions and dreamese. 16
Stealing cherry cobs from Eduard Storer 17
Denying that I did so 18
Denying a crossbow to my mother and grandmother though I knew of it 19
Setting my heart on money learning pleasure more than Thee 20
A relapse 21
A relapse 22
A breaking again of my covenant renued in the Lords Supper. 23
Punching my sister 24
Robbing my mothers box of plums and sugar 25
Calling Dorothy Rose a jade 26
Glutiny in my sickness. 27
Peevishness with my mother. 28
With my sister. 29
Falling out with the servants 30
Divers commissions of alle my duties 31
Idle discourse on Thy day and at other times 32
Not turning nearer to Thee for my affections 33
Not living according to my belief 34
Not loving Thee for Thy self. 35
Not loving Thee for Thy goodness to us 36
Not desiring Thy ordinances 38
Not long {longing} for Thee in {illegible} 39

40 Fearing man above Thee
41 Vsing unlawful means to bring us out of distresses
42 Caring for worldly things more than God
43 Not craving a blessing from God on our honest endeavors.
44 Missing chapel.
45 Beating Arthur Storer.
46 Peevishness at Master Clarks for a piece of bread and butter.
47 Striving to cheat with a brass halfe crowne.
48 Twisting a cord on Sunday morning
49 Reading the history of the Christian champions on Sunday

Since Whitsunday 1662

1. Glutony
2. Glutony
3. Vsing Wilfords towel to spare my own
4 Negligence at the chapel.
5 Sermons at Saint Marys (4)
6 Lying about a louse
7 Denying my chamberfellow of the knowledge of him that took him for a sot.
8 Neglecting to pray 3
9 Helping Pettit to make his water watch at 12 of the clock on Saturday night

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