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In the annals of the human race are recorded the names of a few men, who have shone as the ornament and the boast of their species, whose wisdom has multiplied the triumphs and hastened the progress of intellect, and whose genius has thrown a splendor over the world. Of this fortunate number Newton stands at the head. To give a full account of this extraordinary man, of his life and character, his discoveries and their influence, would be to analyze all that is wonderful in the human mind, to reveal the deep things of nature, unfold the mechanism of the universe, and enumerate the achievements of science during the last century. No such arduous and venturesome task will here be undertaken, nor any thing more than the outlines of a subject, whose compass is so vast, and whose objects are so elevated.
Sir Isaac Newton was born at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, on the 25th of December, 1612. In his carly infancy he was extremely feeble, and little hope of his life was entertained. His
father died three months before he was born, and accordingly the charge of the son devolved wholly on the mother. She spared no pains with his education, and kept him under her own eye till he was twelve years old, when she sent him to the public school at Grantham. He was boarded in the house of an apothecary, whose broilier was usher of the school.
It was here that he first began to display the peculiar bent of his genius, and to give a presage of what its future versatility and power would accomplish. It is recorded of him, while at this school, that his thoughts ran more on practical mechanics, than on his regular exercises, and that during the hours of recreation, which the other boys devoted to play, he was busy with hammers, saws, and hatchets, constructing miniature models and machines of wood. Among his first efforts was a wooden clock, kept in motion by water, and telling the hours on a dial-plate at
He made kites, to which were attached paper lanterns, and one of his favourite amusements was flying them in the night, to the consternation of the neighbouring inhabitants. He fabricated tables and other articles of furniture for his schoolfellows, and is said to have invented and executed a vehicle with four wheels, on which he could transport himself from one place to another by turning a windlass. The motions of the heavenly bodies did not escape his notice even at this period; for he formed a dia!
of a curious construction, by fastening pegs in the walls of the house, which indicated the hours and half hours of the day. At first his fondness for these occupations caused him to neglect his regular studies; but he had too much spirit quietly to look on while other boys were gaining places above him, and he at length maintained not only a reputable, but a distinguished standing in the school.
In the mean time his mother's second husband died, and as she needed the assistance of her son, she took him home to manage the affairs of the farm. To this business he was devoted for a year or two, but with so little interest in the pursuit, that his mother soon found her agricultural concerns were not likely to flourish in his hands. It was one part of his business to go to Grantham market and dispose of the produce of the farm, but in executing this charge he is neither to be applauded for his diligence, nor admired for a love of his duties. The important task of finding a purchaser and making a bargain, he usually entrusted to the enterprise of a servant, and his own time was passed in his early haunts at the apothecary's house, reading books, or planning machines, till it was announced that the time of his return had arrived. At home, the farm itself was managed much in the same way as the sale of its produce at the market. It was neglected, or left to the care of others, while the mind of its nominal superintendent was invoking the genius of invention,