A recent discovery in the National Archives has cast new light on Isaac Newton’s very hands-on role as Warden of the Royal Mint, a position he held from 1696 to his death in 1727 at the Tower of London.
He already took an active role in both the economics and administration of the coinage, although he was not a great innovator nor a great delegator.
Despite the weight of his duties, it has now been discovered that he personally designed a coronation medal for Queen Anne in 1702, belying his cold calculating machine reputation.
Oxford University post-grad student Joseph Hone found Newton’s 50-page hand-written account of his design decisions, previously ignored as a metal clasp holding the pages together had rusted.
Newton's notes tells of his symbolic depiction of the queen as a Greek goddess striking down a monster with two heads – representing the threats of French king, Louis XIV, and the “Old Pretender”, her half-brother James Stuart.
Gold versions of the medal were to be given out to “persons of quality”, according to Newton, with cheaper silver versions to be thrown to the crowds.
Mr Hone said: “The modern obsession with separating science and the humanities falls down when you go back a few centuries.
“It tells us that Newton didn't conceive of himself as a scientist, but a master of lots of trades. The understanding of him as a great scientist is a later imposition, he would have seen himself more as a public servant.”