The Spell of Biography: Isaac Newton and the History of Science

For a longtime, scholars claimed that one of the major differences between philosophy and science reflected their attitude towards biography. Philosophers were prepared to die for their ideas and had to to live according to their own preaching. By contrast, scientists produced ideas and theories which inhabited a different world than that of their own biography. They were concerned with the Truth. And the Truth spoke for itself. Gaston Bachelard once famously contrasted Galileo and Bruno in these terms. Bruno was defending a theory for which there was no proof (the infinity of the universe). A theory he was prepared to die for. By contrast, Galileo constructed a theory for which he had a number of proofs. There was no need to die for it. Isn’t it tempting to think that this is how science was born?