Newton’s Alchemy and His ‘Active Principle’ of Gravitation

  • B. J. T. Dobbs
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 123)


During his undergraduate years, probably about 1664, Newton accepted the Cartesian postulate of a dense aether, acting mechanically by impact, as the cause of terrestrial gravitation.1 Manuscripts written during the next twenty years reflect his continuous commitment to some form of mechanical aether as the principle of gravitation, but in those papers Newton sometimes associated the mechanical gravitational aether with the quasi-spiritual “active principle” of alchemy that was responsible for certain non-mechanical natural processes.


Active Principle Mechanical Philosophy Loeb Classical Library Ancient Wisdom Divine Mind 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. J. T. Dobbs
    • 1
  1. 1.Northwestern UniversityUSA

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