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Westminster Abbey Tomb of Isaac Newton

Newton was buried in Westminster Abbey in April 1727. John Conduitt, the husband of his niece, commissioned an elaborate memorial by William Kent and Michael Rysbrack. This was placed against the north screen, a few feet from the grave. It was completed in 1731 and described by The Gentleman's Magazine on 22nd April:

On a Pedestal is placed a Sarcophagus (or Stone Coffin) upon the front of which are Boys in Basso-relievo with instruments in their hands, denoting his several discoveries, viz. one with a Prism on which principally his admirable Book of Light and Colours is founded; another with a reflecting Telescope, whose great Advantages are so well known; another Boy is weighting the Sun and Planets with a Stillard, the Sun being near the Centre on one side, and the Planets on the other, alluding to a celebrated Proposition in his Principia; another is busy about a Furnace, and two others (near him) are loaded with money as newly coined, intimating his Office in the Mint.

Behind the Sarcophagus is a Pyramid; from the middle of it a Globe arises in Mezzo Relievo, on which several of the Constellations are drawn, in order to shew the path of the Comet in 1681, whose period he has with the greatest Sagacity determin'd. And also the Position of the solstitical Colure mention'd by Hypparchus, by which (in his Chronology) he has fixed the time of the Argonautic Expedition - On the Globe sits the Figure of Astronomy weeping, with a Sceptre in her Hand, (as Queen of the Sciences) and a Star over the Head of the Pyramid.

Notes

The reviewer may not have been aware of that Newton's years spent at a furnace were in the pursuit of the alchemical structure of matter.

Conduitt had succeeded Newton as Master of the Mint and included detailed instructions about a reference to the Mint in his letters to the artists.

The comet of 1680-1 was discussed in the Example for Proposition XLI of Principia Book III, and had prompted Newton to apply his gravitation to objects in the solar system other than planets.

Newton had used the supposed position of the equinoxes at the time of Jason's voyage in the Argo to make a chronology of Greek history based on astronomy rather than oral tradition.

Westminster Abbey has a page about Newton and his monument including an illustration and the text of the inscription.


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