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Political Interference

Isaac Newton

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Political Interference

Isaac Newton lived at a time when politics, religion and education were not separated. King Charles II commanded that everyone who taught at places such as Trinity College, where Church of England ministers were trained, must themselves be ordained as Church of England ministers after seven years. This included people such as Newton who taught only mathematics and science, not theology.Although a devout Christian, Newton was not in full agreement with all the doctrines of the Church of England. Thus, his conscience would not allow him to accept ordination.He was also strongly opposed to political involvement in both religious matters and education. The only way for Newton to keep his job was for the king to make an exception in his case. Others who had previously asked for this had been refused.

So Newton headed south to London for six weeks to plead his case before the king. During his time in London, he became better acquainted with other scientists in the Royal Society. Those who had known him only through his letters defending his discoveries had mistaken his confidence in his work for arrogance. His impatience to get on with new work had been mistaken for bad temper. Now the scientists realized what a friendly and considerate person he was and they rallied to his aid. Fortunately, for Newton and for science, the king granted Newtons request to continue at Trinity College without being ordained.


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