Sir Isaac Newton: Letter to Robert Boyle

Scope and Content

A letter from Sir Isaac Newton to Robert Boyle, 28 February 1679, regarding the cause of gravitation. The letter is a file copy written in the hand of Newton's amanuensis. There are corrections and additions by Newton, who has signed the letter at the end.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was born at Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, on 25 December 1642. He attended Grantham Grammar School, 1654-1656, before matriculating at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1661 (B.A., 1665), where he became a Fellow in 1667. In 1669 he was appointed Lucasian Professor at the university. Newton was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1672, and served as its President, 1703-1727. He was M.P. for Cambridge University, 1689 and 1701-1702. Newton's work on optics was published in 1704, and his research on the laws of motion appeared in his Principia, published in 1687. His other work included theological writings and the use of astronomy to try to amend ancient chronology. He was knighted in 1705, and died at Kensington, London, on 20 March 1727.

Robert Boyle (1627-1691), natural philosopher and chemist, was born at Lismore Castle, Munster, on 25 January 1627, the son of the 1st Earl of Cork. He was educated at Eton and by private tutors, and studied on the continent. Boyle settled at Oxford in 1654, where he erected a laboratory. He was responsible for 'Boyle's Law', which established the proportional relation between elasticity and pressure. He published many works between 1660 and his death on 31 December 1691.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Received from the library of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, 1982.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Sir Isaac Newton in Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of national biography, vol. XIV (London, 1909), pp. 370-393, and the entry on Robert Boyle in Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds, Dictionary of national biography, vol. II (London, 1908), pp. 1026-1031.

Other Finding Aids


Custodial History

The letter was sold with the Newton Papers at Sotheby's in 1936.

Related Material

Cambridge University Library holds other papers relating to Sir Isaac Newton, MSS.Add.2768/14, 3958-3980, 3982-3990, 3993, 3995, 3997, 3998, 4000 and 4002-4007 and 9597, and two letters of Robert Boyle, MS.Add.8524, one of which is addressed to Newton.


The letter is no. 3284 in Sir Geoffrey Keynes, Bibliotheca bibliographici (London, 1964), p. 333.