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Isaac Newton’s book auctioned for record-setting $3.7 million

Isaac Newton laid the blueprints for his three laws of motion, still recited by physics students, in 1666.

(Credit: Library of Congress)

A bound copy of Sir Isaac Newton’s groundbreaking book about math and science was sold for $3.7 million, making it the most expensive printed scientific book ever sold at auction, according to Christie’s, the auction house that handled the sale.

The book has a Latin title is “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” which translates to “Mathematical Principles of natural philosophy,” but the scholars call it the Principia . After Newton (1642-1727) wrote the book, he gave it to the English astronomer Edmond Halley (1656-1742) for editing, and it was printed and sold in London more than 300 years ago, in 1687.

The book is a crucial piece of science and history, and the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein called it “perhaps the greatest intellectual stride that it has ever granted to a man to make.” Even so, Christie’s expects that the goat-skin covered book to bring between $1 million and $1.5 million, but the anonymous bidder bought it for almost four times its value of $3,719,500. [Creative Genius: the world’s Greatest minds]

The famous Principia is about Newton’s three laws of motion to explain how objects move under the influence of external forces. Physics students today still make use of the laws, which include:

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-An object will remain in a state of inertia, unless acted upon with violence.

-The relationship between acceleration and force is a force is equal to mass times acceleration (F=MA).

-For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The crimson book measures approximately 9 cm by 7 cm and contains 252 leaves — some with woodcut diagrams and a folding plate, according to Christie’s. Only one other original, leather-bound copy of Newton’s Principia is sold at auction in the last 47 years — a copy that is presented to King James II (1633-1701) and bought at Christie’s in New York for approximately $2.5 million in December 2013.

In the Principia’s preface, Newton thanked Halley for encouraging him to write the book, saying: “Mr. Edmund Halley not only assisted me with pains in correcting the press and taking care of the arrangements, but it was his request that his increasingly public is owing; for when he had obtained of me the demonstrations of the figure of the celestial orbits , he continually pressed me to communicate to the Royal Society…” (translated by Andrew Motte). In a letter to the king in 1687, Halley wrote, “And I may be bold to say, that if ever a Book was worthy the favourable acceptance of a Prince.”

Halley paid for the printing of the book; the Royal Society, there is not enough money at the moment to cover the costs because it was just another book published, “The Historia Piscium” or “The History of Fishes” by John Ray and Francis Willughby. Fortunately, Halley’s contribution is paid out of Newton’s work was not seriously challenged until Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the German theoretical physicist Max Planck’s quantum theory were published in the 1900’s. In fact, Newton’s principles and methods are still used by scientists today.

Original article on Live Science .

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