The sciences

LibraryThe GemsThe sciences

From a closed world to the infinite universe, from the Ptolemaic system and astrological depictions to the major upheavals in knowledge introduced by Copernicus, Galileo, Tycho-Brahe, and Kepler, the sciences are well represented in the collection’s overall view. The discoveries of the great voyages of exploration as much as those within the human body in medicine, from Avicenna to Vesalius, from zoology to botany to mineralogy, all these disciplines deserve mention.


A scientific gem: Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica – London, 1687
Original edition annotated by G. W. Leibniz (1646-1716)

The original edition of Principia was brought out in London in 1687. This seminal work in “natural philosophy” was printed in an edition of four hundred under the aegis of the Royal Society and at the expense of Newton’s disciple, Edmond Halley. Newton’s historic publication revealed a radically new view of the cosmos. It inaugurated a modern, rational science by formulating a single law, for example, that can explain the movement of an apple falling to the ground and of the planets around the sun, or the phenomenon of tides. Moreover, Newton pulled off a coup d’éclat, a great feat, by transforming celestial mechanics into a branch of mathematics through the universal law of attraction. The copy of the Principia conserved in the Martin Bodmer Foundation belonged to a giant in his own right, Leibniz, who made annotations in the margins. It is well known, by the way, that the German mathematician and philosopher liked to read in bed before falling asleep—while smoking his pipe. The dark red spots affecting the annotated pages in particular are not due to foxing. They are holes burned into the page by cinders!

Isaac Newton, Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica, London, 1687.

Isaac Newton, Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica, London, 1687

The sciences offer a wonderful opportunity to discover many other gems conserved at the Foundation…

The Foundation has many other gems from the sciences on display