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Dr Patricia Fara

According to the famous story, Isaac Newton conceived the theory of gravity when he watched an apple fall from a tree. But in his early fifties, Newton abandoned life as a reclusive scholar and moved to London. Within a few years, he was running the Royal Mint, making (also losing) small fortunes on the stock market and manoeuvring for favour at court. Knighted by Queen Anne, and a close ally of the influential Chancellor of the Exchequer, Newton occupied a powerful position as President of the Royal Society. He was also responsible for the nation’s money at a time of financial crisis, sharing the aspirations of his wealthy colleagues to make London the world’s largest and richest city. Like them, he invested his own money in trading companies that transported enslaved peoples around the world, and as Master of the Mint he profited personally from coins made from African gold. Even Newton’s Principia, his great book on gravity, incorporated data contributed by imperial merchants based across the globe.

Listen to the Podcast Cambridge Arts Round Up Episode 46 

Patricia Fara is a historian of science at the University of Cambridge. She is a graduate of the University of Oxford and did her PhD at the University of London. She is a former Fellow of Darwin College and is an Emeritus Fellow of Clare College where she was previously Director of Studies in the History and Philosophy and Science. Fara was also a College Teaching Officer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. From 2016 to 2018 Fara was President of the British Society for the History of Science. In 2016 she became President of the Antiquarian Horological Society. Fara is author of numerous popular books on the history of science and has been a guest on BBC Radio 4‘s science and history discussion series, In Our Time. Fara began her academic career as a physicist but returned to graduate studies as a mature student to specialise in History and Philosophy of Science, completing her PhD thesis at Imperial College, London in 1993.

Her areas of particular academic interest include the role of portraiture and art in the history of science, science in the 18th century England during the Enlightenment and the role of women in science. She has written about numerous women in science, mathematics, engineering, and medicine including: Hertha Ayrton, Lady Helen Gleichen, Mona Chalmers Watson, Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, Isabel Emslie Hutton, Flora Murray, Ida Maclean, Marie Stopes, and Martha Annie Whiteley. She has argued for expanded access to childcare as a means of increasing the retention of women in science. She has written and co-authored a number of books for children on science. Fara is also a reviewer of books on history of science. She has written the award-winning Science: A Four Thousand Year History (2009) and Erasmus Darwin: Sex, Science, and Serendipity (2012). Her most recent book is A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War” (2017). In 2013, Fara published an article in Nature (journal), stressing the fact that biographies of female scientists perpetuate stereotypes.

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Life after Gravity: Isaac Newton’s London Career. Patricia Fara (OUP, 2021)

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