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Do not appear to be any suf sorption in his thoughts to the neglect of business. “ [ 0 ] n going home from Grantham, ’tis usual at the town end to lead a horse up Spittlegate hill, being very steep. Sir Isaac has been so intent in his medi ficient reason for his never marrying, if he had an inclination so to do. ”^® tations, that he never thought of remounting, at the top of the hill, and so has led his horse home all the way, being 5 miles. And once, On Newton and his peers at school we have no evidence beyond for models of somewhat or other that struck his fancy: or he would get to a stream and make mill wheels.
O f all the anecdotes he shared with Conduitt, one perhaps is crucial for an understanding of New ton’s character; it is about the school bully whom he, though ordi narily passive and fearful, finally worsted and to whom he then meted out punishment. Here is the octogenarian telling himself, Conduitt his worshipful auditor, and through him the world, that this was the way he had become head boy and dealt with his enemies when provoked. The smug satisfaction of his triumph is not limited to the recollection of his adversary’s defeat: after reviewing his long life he is contentedly reflecting that in a like manner all his rivals 45 THE LAD FROM LINCOLNSHIRE and those who would have injured him have been conquered.
But nothing prepares us for the mystery of the creation, the triumphs of 1666. most scientific matters his decisions were dictated by new insights and controlled by rigorous experiment, he continued to harbor within him opposing convictions: to believe in a mechanical uni verse and in miracles, to abhor mystical extravagance and, at the same time, to experience flights of fancy that he would condemn in others; to entertain varying conceptions of the aether; to dedicate years of his life to the alchemical quest and to suffer grave doubts about the possibility of its successful issue; to be committed to the “plain” experimental method and the “plain” historical way of ex planation and to be one of the most daring framers of hypotheses in the history of science.