Newton’s Hooke

A play about Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke which presents “the dark side” of Newton. Emphasis is put on his egotism and his cruelty. The author presents the difficult question of whether Newton deserves all of the credit he receives for the invention of calculus and laying the foundations of physics.

Play title:  Newton’s Hooke

Author (s):  David Pinner

Publisher: Imperial Press

Publication Date: 2003 (Imperial Press)

Genre: Drama

Primary Discipline: Mathematics

Secondary Discipline: Physics

Scientist (s):

Sir Isaac Newton: English mathematician and natural philosopher, he enunciated the laws of motion and gravitation

Robert Hooke: Theorist on mechanics, gravity and optics; developed hypotheses on geology, botany, cartography, anatomy, telescopes, microscopes and working engines.

Nicolas Fatio de Duillier: Swiss mathematician

Source Texts: Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica by Isaac Newton

Opticks by Isaac Newton

The Micrographia by Robert Hooke

Character Breakdown: 5 Men, 4 Women

Sir Isaac Newton, John Wickins, Catherine Bakon, Robert Hooke, Grace Hooke, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, Charles Montagu, Annie Limlet, Catherine Barton

Setting: Cambridge and London

Time Period: 1665-1703

Synopsis of Play: A play about Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke which presents “the dark side” of Newton. Emphasis is put on his egotism (not only does he think that he is incomparably brilliant, but he also seems to think that he is somehow divine as evidenced by his birthdate coinciding with Christmas), and his cruelty (both to those with whom he is intimate and to his professional “enemies”).
The author does a good job of presenting without bias the difficult question of whether Newton deserves all of the credit he receives for the invention of calculus and laying the foundations of physics. At times during the play, one is convinced that Newton is nothing more than a jerk who took credit for all of the good ideas of the people around him, while at other times it seems instead that the others are just jealous of his genius and are unwilling to admit how much more he can do than they can.

In the play, Newton is presented as a repressed homosexual. I do not know what historical evidence there is to support this thesis one way or another, but it is presented believably. We see Isaac becoming emotionally intimate with two young men who are mesmerized by his brilliance, but both eventually leave him disappointed by his cruelty to them and his inability to come to grips with who he is.

Robert Hooke, on the other hand, is not presented as repressed but rather as a man who is so obsessed with sex that he keeps a diary explicitly describing his sexual encounters with his young niece. (Apparently, according to the preface to the play at least, this is true and we have the diaries to prove it.) http://kasmana.people.cofc.edu/MATHFICT/mfview.php?callnumber=mf435

First Performance Date: Unknown

First Producer: Unknown

Performance History: Unknown

Links: https://post-gutenberg.com/2015/02/02/8369/

Entered by: Meaghan Yesford

Photo/Visual Research with citations

                                          

  Isaac Newton                                                                         Robert Hooke

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