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Newton dépossédé!’ The British response to the Pascal forgeries of 1867



Between 1867 and 1869 Michel Chasles presented a series of manuscripts to the Académie des sciences, which suggested that Isaac Newton's claims to original discovery were unfounded. It quickly became apparent to the majority of the academicians that the manuscripts were forgeries, but Chasles was repeatedly allowed to state his case. This essay focuses on the responses to the affair from four British men of science: David Brewster, Augustus De Morgan, Robert Grant and Thomas Archer Hirst. It asks why they felt it necessary to add their voices to this debate and examines their various strategies for refuting Chasles's evidence.



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Highly commended essay, BSHS Singer Prize (2002).
I would like to thank The Royal Society, University College London and the University of London for permission to quote from manuscript material in their possession. I am also grateful for the comments of Rob Iliffe on an earlier version of this paper, and those of the anonymous reviewer.


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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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