Winter has passed twice already in this room. Such isolation could make a sane mind fly off its rails. But only a mind so detached, even derailed, could solve this problem that thinkers through the ages could not. He was trying to write a new story about the physical world because the one he’d heard sounded untrue.
The surprise of sunlight in rainy London draws him to the window and invites him to leave the house, away from the tangled problems. But the darkest of fears pushes back just as firmly—he knows that Death is outside. He has seen the men with the swollen, oozing sores of the Bubonic Plague and the death that soon follows. By this year, 1664, nearby London is losing 7000 people per week and Isaac Newton was not going to be one of them.
Newton was considered to be a genius, perhaps greater than Einstein. From his mind came calculus and the laws of gravity and motion, concepts that almost every invention of science and industry revolves around. Every technology we have that either saves lives or makes them better could find roots in his ideas.
The most captivating forms of change are “turning points”. A person, culture, or country can be puttering along in one direction and something happens or someone does something that changes the whole game. In this story a genius crossed paths with a tragic opportunity. What else but a plague could keep a brilliant young man away from the press of academia, the lure of financial ambitions or the primal pull of romantic pursuits? It’s hard to say what would have happened in this story without Newton and the plague, but I’m guessing we’d have had to wait around a while for calculus. Maybe until Einstein. And maybe I would have had to write this article with one of those quill-thingies.
We will see a lot of research in ChangeStory.com about personal turning points; Newton’s story simply reminds us that sometimes the whole world may follow along with us and change as well.