An American Story from the Joint Mathematics Meetings

British One and Two-pound Coins

British One and Two-pound Coins

The following story came from a talk entitled, Your Humble Servant, Is. Newton.  This talk highlighted the interesting and unique pieces of correspondence between Isaac Newton and his peers in the scientific community.

A 1676 letter from Newton to Robert Hooke contained this quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.”  The quote is famous enough to have been milled into the edge of the British two-pound coin.  The above letter would certainly not be out of place in a British museum, or at The University of Cambridge where Newton studied.  Instead, it resides at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in the Simon Gratz Collection.

Simon Gratz was a Nineteenth Century Philadelphia lawyer, descended from a prominent family with roots in Colonial Philadelphia.  He bought and sold autographs and letters from around the world; his collection contains pieces from the late fourteenth century through the nineteenth century, including the famous letter from Sir Isaac Newton.  What a quintessentially American story!


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