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Science, religion and the geography of reading: Sir William Whitla and the editorial staging of Isaac Newton's writings on biblical prophecy


The conditions surrounding the re-publication of Isaac Newton's treatise on the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation, under the editorship of Sir William Whitla in 1922, serve as a vehicle for examining how the writings of eminent scientists can be mobilized in the cause of local culture wars. After some reflections on the idea of the ‘geography of reading’, the paper turns to an analysis of Whitla's use of Newton's reputation as an apologetic device, and his staging of Newton's writings on eschatology in order to shore up Protestant values during the early days of the Northern Ireland state. This case study of the textual tactics of Whitla, the distinguished Ulster medical professor, Methodist layman and member of Parliament, draws attention to the significance of location in understanding the historical relations between science and religion.

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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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