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Isaac Newton’s Laundry List of Sin

The famous physicist kept a catalog of very human transgressions

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smithsonian.com

Isaac Newton was a sinner. Or, at the very least, he had a sweet tooth.

Newton was a famously introverted and private man. But his diary from around 1622 – when he was about 19 or 20 years-old – reveals an innocuously angsty, highly relatable side. This document, found in 1936 and now known as the Fitzwilliam Notebook, contains a list of 57 of his transgressions.

He made pie on Sunday night. He picked on his sister. He fought with his parents. He questioned his commitment to God, thought about death and he ate an apple in church.

Why did Newton write all of this down? Maybe he was just trying to relieve his guilt and lighten his internal burden: studies show that making lists can “organize and contain an inner sense of chaos,” reports Psychology Today.

The full list:

Before Whitsunday 1662

1. Vsing the word (God) openly
2. Eating an apple at Thy house
3. Making a feather while on Thy day
4. Denying that I made it.
5. Making a mousetrap on Thy day
6. Contriving of the chimes on Thy day
7. Squirting water on Thy day
8. Making pies on Sunday night
9. Swimming in a kimnel on Thy day
10. Putting a pin in Iohn Keys hat on Thy day to pick him.
11. Carelessly hearing and committing many sermons
12. Refusing to go to the close at my mothers command.
13. Threatning my father and mother Smith to burne them and the house over them
14. Wishing death and hoping it to some
15. Striking many
16. Having uncleane thoughts words and actions and dreamese.
17. Stealing cherry cobs from Eduard Storer
18. Denying that I did so
19. Denying a crossbow to my mother and grandmother though I knew of it
20. Setting my heart on money learning pleasure more than Thee
21. A relapse
22. A relapse
23. A breaking again of my covenant renued in the Lords Supper.
24. Punching my sister
25. Robbing my mothers box of plums and sugar
26. Calling Dorothy Rose a jade
27. Glutiny in my sickness.
28. Peevishness with my mother.
29. With my sister.
30. Falling out with the servants
31. Divers commissions of alle my duties
32. Idle discourse on Thy day and at other times
33. Not turning nearer to Thee for my affections
34. Not living according to my belief
35. Not loving Thee for Thy self.
36. Not loving Thee for Thy goodness to us
37. Not desiring Thy ordinances
38. Not long {longing} for Thee in {illeg}
39. Fearing man above Thee
40. Vsing unlawful means to bring us out of distresses
41. Caring for worldly things more than God
42. Not craving a blessing from God on our honest endeavors.
43. Missing chapel.
44. Beating Arthur Storer.
45. Peevishness at Master Clarks for a piece of bread and butter.
46. Striving to cheat with a brass halfe crowne.
47. Twisting a cord on Sunday morning
48. Reading the history of the Christian champions on Sunday

Since Whitsunday 1662

49. Glutony
50. Glutony
51. Vsing Wilfords towel to spare my own
52. Negligence at the chapel.
53. Sermons at Saint Marys (4)
54. Lying about a louse
55. Denying my chamberfellow of the knowledge of him that took him for a sot.
56. Neglecting to pray 3
57. Helping Pettit to make his water watch at 12 of the clock on Saturday night

Despite Newton's career in thinking about the universe and his enormous contributions to the world, the bulk of the items he listed are seemingly inconsequential. A reminder that the daily anxities of our inner worlds never totally goes away; even the most accomplished of us are still just mortals. 

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