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Sussex and Cambridge help to share Newton treasures with the world

A digitised page of calculations made by Sir Isaac Newton. Image: University of Cambridge

The original works of one of the greatest ever scientists – Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – have been made available to the world online thanks to a special project that involved the University of Sussex.

Newton is widely recognised as the most innovative scientist the world has ever seen. His personal annotated copy of his Principia Mathematica is among the notebooks and manuscripts now being made available online by Cambridge University Library, which holds the world’s largest collection of scientific works by Newton.

Visitors to the Cambridge Digital library and the University of Sussex Newton Project can see full transcriptions and extraordinary images of many of Newton's most significant scientific and mathematical papers.  They display the genesis of Newton's foundational thinking in optics and mathematics.

The Newton Project is a collaborative editorial undertaking that aims to make freely available searchable transcriptions of all of Newton's scientific and non-scientific writings by 2016.

Professor Rob Iliffe, who is Director of the AHRC-funded Newton Papers Project, says: “The publication of these foundational texts, thanks to funding from JISC, represents the result of a great deal of hard work put in by both the Cambridge and Sussex teams over the past year.  It is a significant milestone in the work of the Newton Project, and with access to nearly five million words of Newton's personal, scientific and religious writings, readers can now look at Newton's creativity in its broadest contexts.”

The collaboration between the two universities has been funded by JISC as part of the Windows on Genius project. Researchers, students and interested members of the public are now able to zoom in to each page to explore the text in incredible detail and make use of the transcriptions to understand Newton’s mind – and handwriting.

Alastair Dunning, programme manager at JISC, said: “The end results of Newton’s work are world famous but his notebooks and annotations give a rather different insight into the process that he went through to get there.  JISC looks to share insights like those with as wide an audience of possible and digitising this collection means that researchers and students now have online access wherever they are.”

The digitising of the Cambridge collection of Newton papers – the Foundations project – launches a bigger project that will see other famous collections, including the papers of Charles Darwin at the university, made available online.

University of Cambridge Librarian Anne Jarvis says: “Through our collaboration with the Newton Project at the University of Sussex, we’ve been able to provide superb transcriptions alongside the images of many of Newton's manuscripts.”

Notes for Editors

For more information and interviews about the Newton Project at the University of Sussex, contact University of Sussex Press officers Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

For more information about the Cambridge University Library digitisation project, contact Stuart Roberts, University of Cambridge Communications Officer: or call 01223 764982.

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Last updated: Friday, 16 December 2011