Getty Images/Erin McCarthy
Getty Images/Erin McCarthy

The Language Isaac Newton Invented

Getty Images/Erin McCarthy
Getty Images/Erin McCarthy

Isaac Newton laid the foundations of modern science. He discovered gravity and the principles governing motion, light, and cooling. He invented a reflecting telescope, counterfeit-proof coins, and calculus. Most of his work made a huge and lasting contribution to the state of human knowledge, but a few of his projects never made it any further than the paper they were outlined on. All generations that came after him would benefit from his innovations, but none of them would ever speak his universal language.

When Newton was a young student just beginning college, he drew up plans for a language based on the nature of things, rather than on mere convention. The idea was to "let the names of the same sorte of things begin with the same letter: as of Instruments with s; Beasts with t; The soules passions with b, etc." In this way, words wouldn't just be arbitrary labels, haphazardly assigned. You could know from hearing a word what category of thing it belonged to. Additionally, prefixes and suffixes would indicate things like whether a word was a substance or an action, the actor or the acted upon, and so on. You could know, just by hearing a word, exactly what it meant.

This idea of a universal language where the words expressed their meaning through an orderly formula was in the air in the 17th century, and Newton was no doubt aware of the efforts that others had already made toward this end. There had been various plans published for languages based on symbols, numbers, or letters. Newton's plan was based on letters, and by varying the letters in a word, you could vary its meaning in a predictable way.

Newton's most fully worked-out example shows how prefixes could modify the meaning of tor (temperature) to produce all its related meanings:

utor,  hot

owtor, exceeding hot

ǝwtor, very hot

awtor, pretty hot

ewtor, very little hot

iwtor, exceeding little hot

etor, warm

iytor, exceeding little cold

eytor, very little cold

aytor, indifferently cold

ǝytor, very cold

oytor, excessive cold

itor, cold

ator, neither very hot nor cold

ǝtor, pretty hot or pretty cold

otor, very hot or very cold

 

Newton tried to cram an awful lot into this one paradigm, and probably came to understand that if he wanted this degree of precision of meaning for every concept in the world, he would have to devote his life to this task. Instead, he moved on to other things. Another man of science, John Wilkins, a founding member of the Royal Society (of which Newton would later serve as president), did devote his life to the task, and would publish his own 600 page version of this type of universal language several years later. But that language, ingenious but impossible to use, quickly faded into obscurity. In deciding where to focus his energies and talent, Newton chose wisely. 

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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