"Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said, 'Let Newton be' and all was light."
|Godfrey Kneller's 1689 Portrait|
Celebrating December 25 as “Newtonmas” is a complex field with many point sources.
Newtonmas enjoyed air time on The Big Bang Theory episode “The Maternal Congruence” on December 14, 2009. Richard Dawkins suggested it in The New Statesman for December 13, 2007. That article did not celebrate Newton but only hurled projectiles at the traditional Christmas story.
|Half Penny Tokens from Middlesex 1791|
"I just made it up back in the 1990s as a joke, just to promote items we were selling," said Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptics Society… "Everybody was giving me a hard time for calling our party a Christmas party so I said, 'Alright, I am calling it Newtonmas.” … Matt Blum, who wrote about Newtonmas in a 2007 post on Wired magazine's GeekDad blog, says his high school physics teacher marked Newton's birthday with experiments and "physics carols."(USA Today article here).
However, Winston erred in claiming that an “1892 issue of Nature magazine bestows the carol credit on some Victorian-era English scientists.” That article was about Japanese physics students. “A New Sect of Hero-Worshippers” (Volume 46. No. 1193. Page 459. 8 September 1892) is available from the publisher for $18 if you are not a member, or can be found in Google Books.
According to the article, three students at Tokyo University started Newtonmas in their dormitory before 1890. “But as the undergraduates developed into graduates and assistants, the professors themselves were drawn into the field, a more suitable assembly hall was found in the University Observatory.” By 1890, the Newtonkai (Newton Association; 皆 = kai = “all”) was moved to the Physical Laboratory. There, they played games symbolic of great mathematicians, physicists, and astronomers: Newton’s apple, Franklin’s kite, a naked doll for Archimedes …
|Replica of Newton's Reflecting Telescope|
|Celestron 130 EQ Newtonian|
Over the years, I sometimes sent out "Newtonmas cards" to our friends, most of whom we knew from college classes in computer science and related fields. Our physics professor, Alan Saaf, occasionally called the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder a “Newton Burger” (1.0 N ~ .224 lb-f). I do not recall Dr. Saaf ever saying “Newtonmas” but he could have.
|UK 1 Pound Note 1978-1982|
ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS