Happy Birthday, Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642 (according to the Julian Calendar in use in Great Britain at the time; in the Gregorian Calendar now used, that would be January 4, 1643).  When I lived in the UK in the late 1980s, many of the British mathematical physicists would wish one another a Happy Newtonmas at this time of year.  His birthday came at the end of Michaelmas Term, so people got the joke.  The Big Bang Theory glommed onto the joke in one of their episodes.  The relevant clip is available on YouTube.  

For this audience, Newton’s influence on mathematics and science does not need repeating.  Remarkably for someone who died over two centuries before the advent of Mathematical Reviews, Isaac Newton has 43 publications in MathSciNet as of this writing.  Mostly they are new translations of his important works, or republications with commentaries.  Newton has 508 “Author/Related Publications” in MathSciNet.  This is a catch-all category that captures publications that are either written by him, edited by him, or about him.  Again, it is a remarkable number.

The concept of Newtonmas has been taken up by atheists and skeptics as an alternative to Christmas.  There is a touch of irony to this adoption, as Newton was rather religious, to the point of publishing many religious tracts.  As we pass the winter solstice and come to the end of another (Gregorian) year, I am happy to draw some attention to a seminal thinker in mathematics and the sciences.  I suspect Newton would be pleased to see that the fruitful interaction between mathematics and physics continues to be a two-way street.

I wish you all a joyful and successful new year.

About Edward Dunne

I am the Executive Editor of Mathematical Reviews. Previously, I was an editor for the AMS Book Program for 17 years. Before working for the AMS, I had an academic career working at Rice University, Oxford University, and Oklahoma State University. In 1990-91, I worked for Springer-Verlag in Heidelberg. My Ph.D. is from Harvard. I received a world-class liberal arts education as an undergraduate at Santa Clara University.
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