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)
Primary Discipline: Mathematics
Secondary Discipline: Physics
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
Entered by: Meaghan Yesford
Photo/Visual Research with citations
Isaac Newton Robert Hooke