Revealed: Sir Isaac Newton drawing discovered on the wall of his Lincolnshire home after 350 years

Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire | Sir Isaac Newton drawing discovered 350 years later
Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. Credit: National Trust/Susan Haimes

A drawing by English scientist Sir Isaac Newton has been found etched into a wall at his childhood home, 350 years later

A sketch of a windmill, said to have been etched by Sir Isaac Newton when he was a boy has been discovered at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, where the scientist was born in 1642 and where he returned in 1665.

The picture is next to the fireplace in the hall of the 17th-century manor house. It was at Woolsthorpe that Newton split white light using a prism and saw an apple fall from a tree, leading to his theory of gravity.

Isaac Newton's drawing
Isaac Newton’s ‘graffiti’. Credit: Chris-Pickup

Conservator Chris Pickup from Nottingham Trent University used light technology to make the discovery. Pickup said he hoped that the drawing would “shine a light on how [Newton’s] extraordinary mind worked”.

Previous sketches by Newton have been uncovered by tenants of the house while they were redecorating in the 1920s and 30s. William Stukeley, Newton’s friend and biographer, wrote: “The walls, & ceelings [sic] were full of drawings, which he had made with charcole [sic]. There were birds, beasts, men, ships, plants, mathematical figures, circles, & triangles.’

Isaac Newton often drew on walls
Isaac Newton often drew on walls. Credit: National Trust/Derrick E Witty

Jim Grevatte, Illuminating Newton programme manager at Woolsthorpe Manor, said: “The young Newton was fascinated by mechanical objects and the forces that made them work. Paper was expensive, and the walls of the house would have been repainted regularly, so using them as a sketchpad as he explored the world around him would have made sense.

“This discovery could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the drawings waiting to be uncovered, and it’s fitting that we’re using cutting-edge science inspired by Newton’s work to reveal more about his childhood and his thinking.”

The drawings will be on show during the House of Light season at Woolsthorpe Manor until 20 February 2018.

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