The focus of Newtonian scholarship has shifted over the last couple of decades. Compare any relevant collection of studies from the third quarter of the twentieth century with a recent one such as Newton and Newtonianism: New Studies (2004), edited by James Force and Sarah Hutton, and the changes leap to the eye. Newtonian studies have been traditionally concerned with Newton's writings and achievements in the fields of mechanics, optics and mathematics, and with his influence on the subsequent development of these disciplines – a line of enquiry that was nourished by the systematic study of unpublished materials in the post-war period and has reached a high degree of technical sophistication. In this perspective, the priority attributed to Newton's natural philosophy and mathematics reflects the assumption that Newtonian ‘science’ should be granted an unquestioned pre-eminence over the rest of his much varied production, as the latter contributed ‘little or nothing to our twentieth-century world’. The landmarks of post-war Newtonian scholarship thus aimed at the identification, analysis and interpretation of Newton's ‘scientific’ manuscripts, carefully separated from the rest of his densely written and sometimes enigmatic paperwork. Establishing such a demarcation certainly made sense within a historiographical practice directed primarily at the reconstruction of Newton's contribution to the making of modern science, and was sustained by the perception of an essential continuity between Newton's alleged main concerns and the practices of twentieth-century physics and mathematics.
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