Sir Isaac Newton was many things: an astronomer, physicist, theologian, and mathematician. However, he was also enchanted with drawing on the walls of his childhood home, and one of these drawings has just resurfaced after 350 years. It’s hard to underestimate Newton’s contribution to the world of science. After all, it was Isaac who discovered that white light is actually comprised of colors, developed a reflecting telescope in 1668, and developed the law of universal gravitation.
With a mind as active as Isaac Newton’s, it’s no small surprise that he would have taken charcoal to the walls of the home he grew up in, and his close friend William Stukeley described in 1752 how the scientist’s family home, from the walls to the ceilings, was emblazoned with his drawings, as Atlas Obscura report.
“The walls and ceilings were full of drawings, which he had made with charcoal. There were birds, beasts, men, ships, plants, mathematical figures, circles, and triangles.”
It was during a conservation study at Isaac Newton’s childhood home, Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, that his 350-year-old sketch of a windmill was accidentally discovered, much to the amazement of the National Trust who owns the building now.
As the Guardian reports, it was Nottingham Trent University’s Chris Pickup who first spotted Newton’s drawing using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), a special technology where light is used to enable objects to be seen which wouldn’t normally be visible to the naked eye.
As Pickup explained, the idea of using special light technology would have been one that Isaac Newton would surely have approved of considering his expertise in this area. It is hoped that RTI will enable further discoveries of this kind to be made so that scientists and historians can learn more about Newton’s work.
“It’s amazing to be using light, which Newton understood better than anyone before him, to discover more about his time at Woolsthorpe. I hope that by using this technique we’re able to find out more about Newton as man and boy and shine a light on how his extraordinary mind worked.”
It is believed that Isaac Newton would have sketched the 350-year-old drawing of the windmill when he was just a small boy, and historians point to this time as being one in which a local mill was actually being built very close to Woolsthorpe Manor. The construction of the mill inspired Newton enough that he reached for some charcoal and began covering the family walls of his home with the special new building he saw being designed.
— BBC News England (@BBCEngland) December 8, 2017
Other sketches by Isaac Newton were also discovered during the 1920s and 1930s by the new occupants of Woolsthorpe Manor at the time, according to the National Trust. Jim Grevatte, who works at the manor on behalf of the organization, explained in a press release that due to the inaccessibility of paper because of its high cost, it makes sense that Newton would have used the home itself for his drawings.
“Paper was expensive, and the walls of the house would have been repainted regularly, so using them as a sketchpad as he explored the world around him would have made sense.”
Isaac Newton’s 350-year-old sketch of the windmill at his family home will be on display during the House of Light exhibition at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire from December 8, 2017, to February 20, 2018.