Newton family


Newton family

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Early Newtons

The Newtons were a family from Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire. The most recognised member of the Newton family is Sir Isaac Newton, son of Hannah Ayscough and Isaac Newton Sr., the elder. Not much is known about Isaac Newton Senior, except that he was a farmer from Lincolnshire, he married Hannah Ayscough in April 1642, he died later that year in October and was buried at Colsterworth next to his wife. His date of birth is unknown.

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton (4 January 1643-31 March 1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist and theologian. Born at Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a hamlet in the county of Lincolnshire. At the time of Newton's birth, England had not adopted the Gregorian calendar and therefore his date of birth was recorded as Christmas Day, 25 December 1642. Newton was born three months after the death of his father, a prosperous farmer also named Isaac Newton. Born prematurely, he was a small child; his mother Hannah Ayscough reportedly said that he could have fit inside a quart mug (≈ 1.1 litres). When Newton was three, his mother remarried and went to live with her new husband, the Reverend Barnabus Smith, leaving her son in the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough. The young Isaac disliked his stepfather and held some enmity towards his mother for marrying him, as revealed by this entry in a list of sins committed up to the age of 19: "Threatening my father and mother Smith to burn them and the house over them.” While Newton was once engaged in his late teens to a Miss Storey, he never married, being highly engrossed in his studies and work. From about twelve until he was seventeen, Newton was educated at The King's School, Grantham (where his alleged signature can still be seen upon a library window sill). He was removed from school, and by October 1659, he was to be found at Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, where his mother, widowed by now for a second time, attempted to make a farmer of him. He hated farming. Henry Stokes, master at the King's School, persuaded his mother to send him back to school so that he might complete his education. Motivated partly by a desire for revenge against a schoolyard bully, he became the top-ranked student. In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge as a sizar — a sort of work-study role. At that time, the college's teachings were based on those of Aristotle, but Newton preferred to read the more advanced ideas of modern philosophers, such as Descartes, and of astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. In 1665, he discovered the generalised binomial theorem and began to develop a mathematical theory that later became infinitesimal calculus. Soon after Newton had obtained his degree in August 1665, the university temporarily closed as a precaution against the Great Plague. Although he had been undistinguished as a Cambridge student, Newton's private studies at his home in Woolsthorpe over the subsequent two years saw the development of his theories on calculus, optics and the law of gravitation. In 1667, he returned to Cambridge as a fellow of Trinity. Fellows were required to become ordained priests, something Newton desired to avoid due to his unorthodox views. Luckily for Newton, there was no specific deadline for ordination and it could be postponed indefinitely. The problem became more severe later when Newton was elected for the prestigious Lucasian Chair. For such a significant appointment, ordaining normally could not be dodged. Nevertheless, Newton managed to avoid it by means of a special permission from Charles II (see "Middle years" section below).

Hannah Ayscough

Hannah Ayscough (pronounced Askew) (1623 – June 4, 1697) was the mother of Sir Isaac Newton.

Hannah was born in Market Overton in Rutland in 1623. Her parents were James Ayscough and his wife Margery Blythe.

Hannah married Isaac Newton Sr., the elder, in April 1642. He died in October 1642, and nearly three months later their only child Isaac Newton was born.

Hannah left young Isaac in the care of her parents, James and Margery Ayscough, when he was three years old. At that time she moved to North Witham (one mile away) to marry vicar Barnabas Smith. She and Rev. Smith had three children: Mary (born 1647), Benjamin (born 1651) and Hannah (born 1652). When Rev. Smith died in 1653, Hannah returned to Woolsthorpe. By this time Isaac was ten years old, and returned to his mother's household.

As his father had been a farmer, Hannah decided in 1659 that Isaac should also be a farmer, and thus took him away from his school studies. He spent a year away from school on the farm, at quite a critical time in his education. Isaac went back to school in autumn 1660. Later in his life, at the age of nineteen, Isaac grew very resentful of how his mother had left him when he was young.

Hannah's brother William, unlike her, saw the abilities that her son had and was instrumental in Isaac's attending of Trinity College in June 1661. Hannah seemed to be more interested in her farm than in Isaac's academic achievements.

Hannah died in 1697 in Stamford, Lincolnshire, when Isaac was 54. She was buried at Colsterworth on June 4, 1697 by her son, who buried her next to his father. Isaac spent much of the remainder of this year in Woolsthorpe.

Barnabas Smith

Barnabas Smith (c.1583-1653) was a vicar and the stepfather of Sir Isaac Newton. He married Hannah Ayscough around 1645 when Isaac was three. Barnabas and Hannah had three children:

  • Mary (born 1647)
  • Benjamin (born 1651)
  • Hannah (born 1652)

Isaac resented his stepfather and once threatened to burn the house Baranabas and the family lived in with them in it. Barnabas died at the age of 70 in 1653.

Catherine Barton

Catherine Barton was the second daughter of Robert Barton and his second wife, Hannah Smith, half-niece of Isaac Newton, and baptized at Brigstock, Northampton on 25 Nov 1679.

Barton returned to live with her uncle at his home in St Martin's Street. On 9 July 1717 she became engaged to marry John Conduitt who had only set foot in England a few weeks earlier in May of that year. On 23 August they were issued with a licence to marry at St Paul's Covent Garden, but actually married three days later at St Martin in the Fields. The couple had one daughter, Catherine, born in 1721.


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