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