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Newton Considered Toad Vomit Lozenges and Amulets as Cure for Plague, Reveals Manuscript

File photo.

File photo.

Newton was studying the work of Jan Baptiste Van Helmont, a renowned chemist in the 17th century and a prominent practicing medical scientist, when he took these notes.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: June 18, 2020, 2:23 PM IST
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Physicist Sir Isaac Newton, whom we know for his contribution to physics and maths, might have given cure for plague in his notes dating back to 1667.

"The best is a toad suspended by the legs in a chimney for three days, which at last vomited up earth with various insects in it, onto a dish of yellow wax, and shortly after died," Newton has written in his unpublished two-page manuscript.

"Combining powdered toad with the excretions and serum made into lozenges and worn about the affected area, drove away the contagion and drew out the poison," the CNN quoted Newton’s document that was recently sold at an auction in Bonhams for $81,325.

Darren Sutherland, a senior specialist in books and manuscripts at Bonhams, said that it is the medical situation that has had an impact on people’s interest in reading about the history.

Newton has also talked about using stones like sapphire and amber as "zenexton," or amulets, against the disease, among more mundane observations such as "places infected with the Plague are to be avoided."

Newton was studying the work of Jan Baptiste Van Helmont, a renowned chemist in the 17th century and a prominent practicing medical scientist, when he took these notes.

Newton was mostly interested in learning about chemistry from Van Helmont. But he also focused his attention on a book Van Helmont wrote about the plague, the "Tumulus Pestis" ("The Tomb of the Plague"), based on his experience in Antwerp in 1605, according to Bonhams research.

Approximately 100,000 people died of plague in London between 1665 and 1666, according to the British National Archives. This was when Newton developed interest in reading and researching about the disease. Newton is known to have spent two years in quarantine at Woolsthorpe Manorafter he had to leave his college studies in Cambridge.

Newton might have written the notes about the shortly after he was able to return to Cambridge.

Using toad vomit or gemstones to cure the plague sure does sound kooky today, but Newton "wasn't an outlier in the context of the 17th century, Sutherland said.

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