Did Isaac Newton Practice Astrology?

Astrologers who would like to have the halo of science around them often claim that scientists like Galileo, Newton and Kepler were astrologers too. Here is an examination of one such claim. Compiled by the Sakshi research team.  

Alleged claim:
any astrologers claim that Sir Isaac Newton practiced astrology. As evidence the following anecdote is often quoted: when the astronomer Edmond Halley (1656-1742), of comet fame, once spoke depreciatively on the subject of astrology, Newton is said to have berated him with the remark: “Sir Halley, I have studied the matter, you have not!” Newton’s supposedly support even appears in wikipedia (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton.

Examination of the claim:
However, a few have examined the veracity of this claim and quote. And here is a report on that:  During the past few decades, an enormous amount of studies have been published on Newton, reaching a high-water mark during the tercentenary of the publication of Newton’s Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica (1687). Many of his hitherto unpublished papers, notably those from the so-called ‘Portsmouth Collection’, have been edited and commented on. However, none of these studies have turned up one shred of evidence that Newton ever conducted any research on astrology. One of the foremost Newton scholars, the English historian of science Derek Thomas Whiteside has stated that he never found any reference to astrology among the 50 million words which have been preserved from Newton’s hand. Moreover, the claim that the Bodleian Library at Oxford possesses a rare treatise on astrology written by Newton has also proven to be completely unfounded (http://www.phys.uu.nl/~vgent/astrology/newton.htm).

Again, an examination list of Newton’s library books reveals that his primary interest was Biblical theology. The above mentioned website reveals that: Among the 1752 books with identifiable titles on this list, no less than 477 (27.2%) were on the subject of theology, 169 (9.6%) on alchemy, 126 (7.2%) on mathematics, 52 (3.0%) on physics and only 33 (1.9%) on astronomy. Surprisingly, Newton’s books on the disciplines on which his scientific fame rests amount to no more than 12% of his library. At his death, Newton’s library possessed no more than four books on the subject of astrology: a work by the German astrologer Johann Essler from Mainz (end 15th/begin 16th century, a treatise on palmistry and astrology by the English doctor/astrologer Richard Saunders (1613-1675), an almanac from the same using the pseudonym Cardanus Rider[10] and finally a work debunking astrology by the philosopher-poet and Cambridge professor Henry More (1614-1687).

Adding insult to the injury of astrologers is that the site proves with evidence that the real quote of Isaac Newton was on Biblical theology and not astrology.


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