Like the great Margaret Thatcher, Isaac Newton hails from Grantham in Lincolnshire, or as near as damn-it! The anniversary of his birthday is tomorrow (corrected to the Georgian* calendar which was not used in England until 1752) so here is a picture of the great man with obligatory apple. His mother, Hannah Ascough, I presume, is somehow linked to my primary school Ascoughfee hall in Spalding, a place in my day full of gorgeous stuffed birds and rather severe ballet teachers. One of its subsequent owners, a man called Johnson, founded the Gentleman’s society in 1710 which is one of the oldest antiquarian societies in existence and Isaac Newton was a member along with Alexander Pope, John Gay, Tennyson and George Gilbert Scott.
*this should read Gregorian of course! (thanks Chris Oakley!! grin)
Ascoughfee hall features a war memorial designed by Lutyens and I remember playing around it when I was very young. I don’t remember much more about the primary school though.
Newton was an advocate of what has become known as “the glorious revolution”, and deeply suspicious of James II’s tendencies towards Catholicism, the story of which will be a major part in Lucy Worsley’s forthcoming BBC tv series, for which I did some illustrations and title sequences.
Rather more obscurely, Newton was the first to reconstruct the Judean calendar and work out the date of the Crucifixion: he reasoned it should be April 23rd, AD 34, so about a year out of the accepted timing. He based this on the presence of a new moon, not on the documented lunar eclipse which might account for the moon appearing to be blood-red on 3 April AD 33, though a number of later scholars claim he was simply pushing his theories to make them fit a myth that Jesus died on St George’s day. I suppose that confirms that God is an Englishman?
In fact, as Christ was probably born in 6BC, his death is more likely to have taken place either in AD 29 or AD30. The claims about appeasing Herod in Luke (Luke 23:12) again point to an earlier date (following Robert Graves of course) to around the death of Sejanus in 31 AD.
Of course, the farcical Bishop Ussher dated the creation of the world to 6pm on Saturday 22nd Oct 4004 BC and his chronology was printed in bibles form 1701. (Lightfoot claimed it was in 3929 and St Bede in 3952BC) Just for the record, Newton corrects Ussher to 4000 BC, a nice round number.