Library offers glimpse into the mind of Isaac Newton
November 16, 2006
Source: McMaster University
A rare first edition of Isaac Newton's Opticks, recently acquired as McMaster University library's two millionth book, has provided the inspiration for an imaginative interdisciplinary collaboration between the library, the Learning Technologies Resource Centre (LTRC) and instructors in the Arts and Science program.
Although Newton lived from 1642 to 1727, the physicist, mathematician and visionary is still relevant today, said Dr. Kathy Garay, who teaches History and Women's Studies at McMaster and also works as an archivist in the Mills Memorial Library.
"Newton is relevant for me because of that capacious mind of his," Garay explained. "He was active in so many areas. He was extremely good at a lot of things. He was a multifaceted expert."
Eager for students in her Arts and Science course on Technology and Society to explore the mind of Isaac Newton, one of the founders of Western science, and also to become familiar with the library's rare early editions by and about Newton, Garay secured the support of the LTRC to develop an interactive learning object.
For one of the course's assignments, Garay asked her students to answer the question, "Where does the telecope fit?" Without any further instructions, her students produced a variety of projects designed to answer the question in the form of 3D models, prose, music and art. One student even created a flipbook about Newton.
Since her primary interest is in the religious and theological aspects of Newton's work, Garay enlisted two other subject specialists to form the content team: Bill Harris of Physics and Astronomy and Miroslav Lovric of Mathematics and Statistics, both instructors in the Arts and Science Program.
Co-ordinated by Muriel McKay, the LTRC projects team of Jim Bell, Reg Woodruff and Evelyn Chan provided photographic, graphic design and programming support. The team was augmented by two Arts and Science students, assisted by funding from the Centre for Leadership and Learning.
The learning object invites students to consider the three primary elements of Newton's wide ranging persona: the visionary, the physicist and the mathematician. In developing the learning object, the team focused almost exclusively on the primary source materials available in the Research Collections area of Mills Memorial Library.
This substantial collection, which is fully documented in the application, consists of volumes published during the eighteenth century and also includes important volumes from the personal library of the philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell.
The web-based application combines numerous images from the rare books with contemporary music, audio, animations and interactive segments.
The Mind of Isaac Newton is being officially launched on Monday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. in the H.G. Thode Library of Science and Engineering, B117A. All are welcome, but are asked to RSVP by Thursday, Nov. 16 to firstname.lastname@example.org.