Isaac Newton Quotes 1–30 of 202 Quotes

Sir Isaac Newton (January 4, 1643 – March 31 1727 or in Old Style: December 25, 1642 – March 20, 1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, inventor, theologian and natural philosopher. He is often regarded as the most influential scientist in history and is most famous for discovering the Laws of Gravity.

Below are 30 of 202 sourced Isaac Newton quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“Amicus Plato — amicus Aristoteles — magis amica veritas”

— Isaac Newton

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More on this quote: Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is truth.
• These are notes in Latin that Newton wrote to himself that he titled: Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae [Certain Philosophical Questions] (c. 1664)
• Variant translations: Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my best friend is truth.
Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — truth is a greater friend.
• This is a variation on a much older adage, which Roger Bacon attributed to Aristotle: Amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas. Bacon was perhaps paraphrasing a statement in the Nicomachean Ethics: Where both are friends, it is right to prefer truth.

“The best and safest method of philosophizing seems to be, first to enquire diligently into the properties of things, and to establish these properties by experiment, and then to proceed more slowly to hypothesis for the explanation of them. For hypotheses should be employed only in explaining the properties of things, but not assumed in determining them, unless so far as they may furnish experiments.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Letter to Ignatius Pardies (1672) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Feb. 1671/2) as quoted by William L. Harper, Isaac Newton's Scientific Method: Turning Data Into Evidence about Gravity and Cosmology (2011)

“If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.”

— Isaac Newton

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More on this quote: Letter to Robert Hooke (15 February 1676) [dated as 5 February 1675 using the Julian calendar with March 25th rather than January 1st as New Years Day, equivalent to 15 February 1676 by Gregorian reckonings.] A facsimile of the original is online at The digital Library. The quotation is 7-8 lines up from the bottom of the first page. The phrase is most famous as an expression of Newton's but he was using a metaphor which in its earliest known form was attributed to Bernard of Chartres by John of Salisbury: Bernard of Chartres used to say that we [the Moderns] are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients], and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants.
• Modernized variants: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.

“I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses; for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called a hypothesis, and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Letter to Robert Hooke (15 February 1676) [5 February 1676 (O.S.)]

“Bullialdus wrote that all force respecting the Sun as its center & depending on matter must be reciprocally in a duplicate ratio of the distance from the center.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Letter to Edmund Halley (June 20, 1686) quoted in I. Bernard Cohen and George E. Smith, ed.s, The Cambridge Companion to Newton (2002) p. 204

“1. Fidelity & Allegiance sworn to the King is only such a fidelity and obedience as is due to him by the law of the land; for were that faith and allegiance more than what the law requires, we would swear ourselves slaves, and the King absolute; whereas, by the law, we are free men, notwithstanding those Oaths. 2. When, therefore, the obligation by the law to fidelity and allegiance ceases, that by the Oath also ceases...”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Letter to Dr. Covel Feb. 21, (1688-9) Thirteen Letters from Sir Isaac Newton to J. Covel, D.D. (1848)

“It seems to me, that if the matter of our sun and planets and all the matter of the universe, were evenly scattered throughout all the heavens, and every particle had an innate gravity towards all the rest, and the whole of space throughout which this matter was scattered was but finite, the matter on [toward] the outside of this space would, by its gravity, tend towards all the matter on the inside, and, by consequence, fall down into the middle of the whole space, and there compose one great spherical mass. But if the matter was evenly disposed throughout an infinite space it could never convene into one mass; but some of it would convene into one mass and some into another, so as to make an infinite number of great masses, scattered at great distances from one another throughout all that infinite space.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Four Letters to Bentley (1692) first letter

“When I wrote my treatise about our System, I had an eye upon such principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose. But if I have done the public any service this way, 'tis due to nothing but industry and a patient thought.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Newton to Bentley, 10 December 1692 (first letter), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, ed. H. W. Turnbull (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), 3:233. Referenced on p. 383 of Snobelen SD: "The Theology of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica: A Preliminary Survey," pp. 377–412, Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie, Volume 52, Issue 4 (Jan 2010)

“The 2300 years do not end before the year 2132 nor after 2370. The time times & half time do not end before 2060. .... It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner. This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fancifull men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, & by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail. Christ comes as a thief in the night, & it is not for us to know the times & seasons which God hath put into his own breast.”

— Isaac Newton

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More on this quote: An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture (1704), regarding his calculations "Of the End of the World" based upon the prophecies of Daniel, quoted in Look at the Moon! the Revelation Chronology (2007) by John A. Abrams, p. 141
 • This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.
 • As quoted in "The world will end in 2060, according to Newton" in the London Evening Standard (19 June 2007)

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“I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait 'till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Reply upon being asked how he made his discoveries, as quoted in "Biographia Britannica: Or the Lives of the Most Eminent Persons who Have Flourished in Great Britain from the Earliest Ages Down to the Present Times, Volume 5 ", by W. Innys, (1760), p. 3241.

“In the beginning of the year 1665 I found the method of approximating Series and the Rule for reducing any dignity of any Binomial into such a series. The same year in May I found the method of tangents of Gregory and Slusius, and in November had the direct method of Fluxions, and the next year in January had the Theory of Colours, and in May following I had entrance into the inverse method of Fluxions. And the same year I began to think of gravity extending to the orb of the Moon, and having found out how to estimate the force with which [a] globe revolving within a sphere presses the surface of the sphere, from Kepler's Rule of the periodical times of the Planets being in a sesquialterate proportion of their distances from the centers of their orbs I deduced that the forces which keep the Planets in their Orbs must [be] reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about which they revolve: and thereby compared the force requisite to keep the Moon in her orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the earth, and found them answer pretty nearly. All this was in the two plague years of 1665 and 1666, for in those days I was in the prime of my age for invention, and minded Mathematicks and Philosophy more than at any time since. What Mr Hugens has published since about centrifugal forces I suppose he had before me. At length in the winter between the years 1676 and 1677 I found the Proposition that by a centrifugal force reciprocally as the square of the distance a Planet must revolve in an Ellipsis about the center of the force placed in the lower umbilicus of the Ellipsis and with a radius drawn to that center describe areas proportional to the times. And in the winter between the years 1683 and 1684 this Proposition with the Demonstration was entered in the Register book of the R. Society. And this is the first instance upon record of any Proposition in the higher Geometry found out by the method in dispute. In the year 1689 Mr Leibnitz, endeavouring to rival me, published a Demonstration of the same Proposition upon another supposition, but his Demonstration proved erroneous for want of skill in the method.”

— Isaac Newton

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More on this quote: (ca. 1716) A Catalogue of the Portsmouth Collection of Books and Papers Written by Or Belonging to Sir Isaac Newton (1888) Preface
• Also partially quoted in Sir Sidney Lee (ed.), The Dictionary of National Biography Vol.40 (1894)

“I have studied these things — you have not.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Reported as Newton's response, whenever Edmond Halley would say anything disrespectful of religion, by Sir David Brewster in The Life of Sir Isaac Newton (1831). This has often been quoted in recent years as having been a statement specifically defending Astrology. Newton wrote extensively on the importance of Prophecy, and studied Alchemy, but there is little evidence that he took favourable notice of astrologyhttp://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/astrology/newton.htm. In a footnote, Brewster attributes the anecdote to the astronomer Nevil Maskelyne who is said to have passed it on to Oxford professor Stephen Peter Rigaudhttp://books.google.co.uk/books?id=gLcVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA301&lpg=PA301&dq=brewster+newton+%22I+have+studied%22&source=bl&ots=dEwk6nHcSa&sig=F2uReuXjRWwL3w647pfaU1PlbC0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=fqu5UpzkAvOA7Qap9oGoDQ&ved=0CGoQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=brewster%20newton%20%22I%20have%20studied%22&f=false

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1855) by Sir David Brewster (Volume II. Ch. 27). Compare: "As children gath'ring pebbles on the shore", John Milton, Paradise Regained, Book iv. Line 330

“In default of any other proof, the thumb would convince me of the existence of a God.”

— Isaac Newton

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More on this quote: Attributed to Newton as "A défaut d'autres preuves, le pouce me convaincrait de l'existence de Dieu" in a treatise on palmistry: d'Arpentigny, Stanislas (1856), La science de la main, language: French, (2nd ed.) chapter: IV: Le pouce, page: 53, place: Paris, France, publisher: Coulon-Pineau A later translation by Edward Heron-Allen renders the phrase as "In default of any other proofs, the thumb would convince me of the existence of God", and acknowledges that it does not seem to appear in any of Newton's works [d'Arpentigny, Casimir Stanislas (1889), The Science of the Hand, language: English, chapter: Sub-Section IV: The Thumb, page: 138, at: Edward, place: London, England, publisher: Ward, Lock and Co.]
• Reported as something said by Newton in a section on palmistry in Charles Dickens's All the Year Round (1864), Vol. 10, p. 346; later found in "The Book of the Hand" (1867) by A R. Craig, S. Low and Marston, p. 51:
  "In want of other proofs, the thumb would convince me of the existence of a God; as without the thumb the hand would be a defective and incomplete instrument, so without the moral will, logic, decision, faculties of which the thumb in different degrees offers the different signs, the most fertile and the most brilliant mind would only be a gift without worth. [No closing quotations marks exist to specify the end of the quotation and the beginning of the author's commentary.]
  • A slight variant of this is cited as something Newton once "exclaimed" in Human Nature : An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective, Vol. 1, Issues 7-12 (1978), p. 47: "In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God's existence."

“We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure remarks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Anecdote reported by Dr. Robert Smith, late Master of Trinity College, to his student Richard Watson, as something that Newton expressed when he was writing his Commentary On Daniel. In Watson's Apology for the Bible. London 8vo. (1806), p. 57

“Oh, Diamond! Diamond! thou little knowest what mischief thou hast done!”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: This is from an anecdote found in St. Nicholas magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4, (February 1878) :
 Sir Isaac Newton had on his table a pile of papers upon which were written calculations that had taken him twenty years to make. One evening, he left the room for a few minutes, and when he came back he found that his little dog "Diamond" had overturned a candle and set fire to the precious papers, of which nothing was left but a heap of ashes.

“It is the perfection of God's works that they are all done with the greatest simplicity. He is the God of order and not of confusion. And therefore as they would understand the frame of the world must endeavor to reduce their knowledge to all possible simplicity, so must it be in seeking to understand these visions.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Cited in Rules for methodizing the Apocalypse, Rule 9, from a manuscript published in The Religion of Isaac Newton (1974) by Frank E. Manuel, p. 120, quoted in Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1983) by Richard S. Westfall, p. 326, in Fables of Mind: An Inquiry Into Poe's Fiction (1987) by Joan Dayan, p. 240, and in Everything Connects: In Conference with Richard H. Popkin (1999) by Richard H. Popkin, James E. Force, and David S. Katz, p. 124

“Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”

— Isaac Newton

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Newton, Sir Isaac. “Isaac Newton Quotes: 1–30 of 202 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Isaac-Newton-quotes.html#19

More on this quote: Cited in Rules for methodizing the Apocalypse, Rule 9, from a manuscript published in The Religion of Isaac Newton (1974) by Frank E. Manuel, p. 120, as quoted in Socinianism And Arminianism : Antitrinitarians, Calvinists, And Cultural Exchange in Seventeenth-Century Europe (2005) by Martin Mulsow, Jan Rohls, p. 273.
  • As quoted in God in the Equation : How Einstein Transformed Religion (2002) by Corey S. Powell, p. 29

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“We must believe in one God that we may love & fear him. We must believe that he is the father Almighty, or first author of all things by the almighty power of his will, that we may thank & worship him & him alone for our being and for all the blessings of this life We must believe that this is the God of moses & the Jews who created heaven & earth & the sea & all things therein as is expressed in the ten commandments, that we may not take his name in vain nor worship images or visible resemblances nor have (in our worship) any other God then him. For he is without similitude he is the invisible God whom no eye hath seen nor can see, & therefore is not to be worshipped in any visible shape. He is the only invisible God & the only God whom we are to worship & therefore we are not to worship any visible image picture likeness or form. We are not forbidden to give the name of Gods to Angels & Kings but we are forbidden to worship them as Gods. For tho there be that are called Gods whether in heaven or in earth (as there are Gods many & Lords many) yet to us there is but one God the Father of whom are all things & we in him & our Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things & we in him, that is, but one God & one Lord in our worship: One God & one mediator between God & man the man Christ Jesus. We are forbidden to worship two Gods but we are not forbidden to worship one God, & one Lord: one God for creating all things & one Lord for redeeming us with his blood. We must not pray to two Gods, but we may pray to one God in the name of one Lord. We must believe therefore in one Lord Jesus Christ that we may behave our selves obediently towards him as subjects & keep his laws, & give him that honour & glory & worship which is due to him as our Lord & King or else we are not his people. We must believe that this Lord Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah the Prince predicted by Daniel, & we must worship him as the Messiah or else we are no Christians. The Jews who were taught to have but one God were also taught to expect a king, & the Christians are taught in their Creed to have the same God & to believe that Jesus is that King.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Drafts on the history of the Church (Section 3). Yahuda Ms. 15.3, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel. 2006 Online Version at Newton Project

“Whence are you certain that ye Ancient of Days is Christ? Does Christ anywhere sit upon ye Throne?”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: He wrote in discussing with John Locke the passage of Daniel 7:9. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, Vol. III, Letter 362. Cited in The Watchtower magazine, 1977, 4/15, article: Isaac Newton’s Search for God.

“Who is a liar, saith John, but he that denyeth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist that denyeth the Father & the Son. And we are authorized also to call him God: for the name of God is in him. Exod. 23.21. And we must believe also that by his incarnation of the Virgin he came in the flesh not in appearance only but really & truly , being in all things made like unto his brethren (Heb. 2 17) for which reason he is called also the son of man.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Drafts on the history of the Church (Section 3). Yahuda Ms. 15.3, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel. 2006 Online Version at Newton Project

“I have that honour for him as to believe that he wrote good sense; and therefore take that sense to be his which is the best.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Speaking of the apostle John’s writings. Cited in The Watchtower magazine, 1977, 4/15.

“As all regions below are replenished with living creatures... so may the heavens above be replenished with beings whose nature we do not understand. He that shall well consider the strange and wonderful nature of life and the frame of the Animals, will think nothing beyond the possibility of nature, nothing too hard for the omnipotent power of God. And as the Planets remain in their orbs, so may any other bodies subsist at any distance from the earth, and much more may beings, who have sufficient power of self motion, move whether they will, and continue in any regions of the heavens whatever, there to enjoy the society of one another, and by their messengers or Angels to rule the earth and convers with the remotest regions. Thus may the whole heavens or any part thereof whatever be the habitation of the Blessed, and at the same time the earth be subject to their dominion. And to have thus the liberty and dominion of the whole heavens and the choice of the happiest places for abode seems a greater happiness than to be confined to any one place whatever.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: As quoted by Frank Edward Manuel, The Religion of Isaac Newton (1977)

“The ancients considered mechanics in a twofold respect; as rational, which proceeds accurately by demonstration, and practical. To practical mechanics all the manual arts belong, from which mechanics took its name. But as artificers do not work with perfect accuracy, it comes to pass that mechanics is so distinguished from geometry, that what is perfectly accurate is called geometrical; what is less so is called mechanical. But the errors are not in the art, but in the artificers. He that works with less accuracy is an imperfect mechanic: and if any could work with perfect accuracy, he would be the most perfect mechanic of all; for the description of right lines and circles, upon which geometry is founded, belongs to mechanics. Geometry does not teach us to draw these lines, but requires them to be drawn; for it requires that the learner should first be taught to describe these accurately, before he enters upon geometry; then it shows how by these operations problems may be solved.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) Preface (8 May 1686)

“Our design, not respecting arts, but philosophy, and our subject, not manual, but natural powers, we consider chiefly those things which relate to gravity, levity, elastic force, the resistance of fluids, and the like forces, whether attractive or impulsive; and therefore we offer this work as mathematical principles of philosophy; for all the difficulty of philosophy seems to consist in this — from the phenomena of motions to investigate the forces of nature, and then from these forces to demonstrate the other phenomena...”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) Preface

“I wish we could derive the rest of the phenomena of nature by the same kind of reasoning from mechanical principles; for I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they may all depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards each other, and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from each other; which forces being unknown, philosophers have hitherto attempted the search of nature in vain; but I hope the principles here laid down will afford some light either to that or some truer method of philosophy.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) Preface

“Rational mechanics must be the science of the motions which result from any forces, and of the forces which are required for any motions, accurately propounded and demonstrated. For many things induce me to suspect, that all natural phenomena may depend upon some forces by which the particles of bodies are either drawn towards each other, and cohere, or repel and recede from each other: and these forces being hitherto unknown, philosophers have pursued their researches in vain. And I hope that the principles expounded in this work will afford some light, either to this mode of philosophizing, or to some mode which is more true.”

— Isaac Newton

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Quote source: Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) Preface, translation in William Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences (1837)

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