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How Many Items From Isaac Newton’s “Sin List” Are You Guilty Of?

From lying about crossbows to beating up his housemate, Isaac Newton could be quite the badass.

Image via (cc) Flickr/Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Sir Isaac Newton possessed one of the most significant minds in the history of the human race. Astronomy, mathematics, theology, Newton’s influence stretches across disciplines and is unparalleled in its impact. His 1687 treatise, “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” remains a monumental achievement, giving us a vocabulary with which we describe the natural world to this day. But, as revolutionary as Newton’s book of equations and mathematical theorems may have been, it’s not exactly an entertaining read. To get a little more of a sense of who Isaac Newton was as a person, you’re better off thumbing through the pages of his private journal.


Yes, Isaac Newton kept a diary.

Commonly known as the Fitzwilliam Notebook, the journal is a surprisingly frank, unexpectedly humanizing look at a man known more for his Principia than his personality. Sure, there are mathematical scribblings and scientific theories, but there are also Newton’s daily expenses (“Received of my mother – 30.0.0” and “Spent on my [J]ourney to London – 5.10.0”) and perhaps most interestingly: A list of sins—57 in all—which the budding scientist fastidiously recorded through his early twenties.

Beyond offering insight into Newton’s own sense of right and wrong, the list is fascinating for being antiquated and nit-picky (“Lying about a louse” #54), while strangely familiar at the same time. After all, who hasn’t been annoyed with family members (#28-29) or been less than truthful about childish mischief (#18)?

Here’s Newton full list of sins. How do you compare?

Before Whitsunday 1662

1. Vsing the word (God) openly
2. Eating an apple at Thy house
3. Making a feather while on Thy day
4. Denying that I made it.
5. Making a mousetrap on Thy day
6. Contriving of the chimes on Thy day
7. Squirting water on Thy day
8. Making pies on Sunday night
9. Swimming in a kimnel on Thy day
10. Putting a pin in Iohn Keys hat on Thy day to pick him.
11. Carelessly hearing and committing many sermons
12. Refusing to go to the close at my mothers command.
13. Threatning my father and mother Smith to burne them and the house over them
14. Wishing death and hoping it to some
15. Striking many
16. Having uncleane thoughts words and actions and dreamese.
17. Stealing cherry cobs from Eduard Storer
18. Denying that I did so
19. Denying a crossbow to my mother and grandmother though I knew of it
20. Setting my heart on money learning pleasure more than Thee
21. A relapse
22. A relapse
23. A breaking again of my covenant renued in the Lords Supper.
24. Punching my sister
25. Robbing my mothers box of plums and sugar
26. Calling Dorothy Rose a jade
27. Glutiny in my sickness.
28. Peevishness with my mother.
29. With my sister.
30. Falling out with the servants
31. Divers commissions of alle my duties
32. Idle discourse on Thy day and at other times
33. Not turning nearer to Thee for my affections
34. Not living according to my belief
35. Not loving Thee for Thy self.
36. Not loving Thee for Thy goodness to us
37. Not desiring Thy ordinances
38. Not long {longing} for Thee in {illeg}
39. Fearing man above Thee
40. Vsing unlawful means to bring us out of distresses
41. Caring for worldly things more than God
42. Not craving a blessing from God on our honest endeavors.
43. Missing chapel.
44. Beating Arthur Storer.
45. Peevishness at Master Clarks for a piece of bread and butter.
46. Striving to cheat with a brass halfe crowne.
47. Twisting a cord on Sunday morning
48. Reading the history of the Christian champions on Sunday

Since Whitsunday 1662

49. Glutony
50. Glutony
51. Vsing Wilfords towel to spare my own
52. Negligence at the chapel.
53. Sermons at Saint Marys (4)
54. Lying about a louse
55. Denying my chamberfellow of the knowledge of him that took him for a sot.
56. Neglecting to pray 3
57. Helping Pettit to make his water watch at 12 of the clock on Saturday night

Oh, and Arthur Storer, upon whom Newton opened a can of whoop-ass in entry #44, while the two were childhood housemates? He later went on to discover a comet, which henceforth was referred to by his name. That is, until another astronomer correctly calculated the comet’s rate of return, usurping Storer’s claim to fame, and renaming the rock after himself: Edmund Halley.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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