Photographer's Note

The storied universities of Oxford and Cambridge have their origins in medieval days. Oxford was already a seat of learning by AD 1167. In 1205, however, when an Oxford scholar killed a local townsman, the dead man's friends turned around and massacred a number of scholars. This resulted in a mass exodus of scholars to a town named after a bridge on the River Cam. And, although many of the scholars returned to Oxford by 1209 and picked up where they had left off, the incident led to the birth of a great rival institution in the University of Cambridge.

As a young post-doc at Oxford in the 1970s, and with repeated visits since, the great university will always have my heart. But then it is Cambridge that is the source of so much physics that I've taught through my career as a professor of physics, that this institution will always have my unbridled admiration. (Oxford has produced many more Prime Ministers, but you cannot hold it against them.) For its scientific legacy Cambridge is unrivaled, not only in the UK, but in the rest of the world. It produced Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton in the 17th Century; Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin and James Clerk Maxwell in the 19th; Paul A.M. Dirac in physics, Francis Crick and James Watson in biology in the 20th. Eighty-three Nobel Prize winners are associated with the institution in the 20th Century, twice as many as any other institution in the world.

In 1665, the Bubonic Plague, still ravaging the Continent of Europe, made its way across the English Chanel, and began to decimate the population of London. Oxford and Cambridge, each approximately 80 km (50 miles) from London were closed down. During the next 18-months in 1665-'66, the 23-year old Isaac Newton sequestered himself in splendid isolation in his home, Woolsthorpe, in southern Lincolnshire. There he virtually created modern science — formulated calculus, discovered many of the critical properties of light, discovered the three laws that bear his name, and discovered the Law of Universal Gravitation. The publication of his masterpiece, The "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Matematica," another 23 years later, gave rise in time to the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Electrical Revolution, the Nuclear Revolution, the Air and Space Age, the Information Age... and whatever science and technology hold in store for the future. It can safely be said that Newton is the architect of the modern world.

In honoring Newton in death, Alexander Pope penned the immortal couplet,

"Nature and Nature's Laws lay in night,
God said, 'Let Newton Be! and all was light."

The gates in this photograph are at the Wren Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. They offer a breath taking view of the River Cam, meandering lazily through "the Backs," or behind many of the colleges of Cambridge. It has been the setting for some of the finest minds in history. A great deal of Newton's personal books and papers are maintained in the Wren Library. All of last week, I was a guest of Trinity College, I was there with my co-author, Keith Wamsley, doing research on a book entitled "The Miracle Year." It was an overwhelming experience to physically handle Newton's own books, replete with his annotations and corrections in ink. Indeed, the deeply religious Newton had set out to "... read the mind of God." Studying his notes, I felt as if I were reading the mind of the man, who was reading the mind of God.

I dedicate this photo to Lord Rees of Ludlow, Master of Trinity, Astronomer Royal of England, and past President of the Royal Society — otherwise simply "Martin Rees" — as gracious and modest, as he is brilliant.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6777 W: 471 N: 12149] (41261)
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