New Isaac Newton graffiti discovered at Woolsthorpe Manor

New Newtonian graffiti discovered at Woolsthorpe Manor

Woolsthorpe Manor was the childhood home of Issac Newton, where he split light using a prism in his ‘crucial experiment’ and changed the way we think about and use light forever. Now, aptly through cutting-edge light technology, we’ve discovered brand new drawings thought to have been hand-carved by the young scientist in the kitchen of the manor house in Lincolnshire.

As part of a series of scientific investigations we are carrying out at the manor house, conservators have discovered an etching of a windmill, thought to have been inspired by the building of a nearby mill during Newton’s childhood.

The new drawings were revealed using Reflectance Transformation Imaging, or RTI, a technique that uses light to capture the shape and colour of a surface not visible to the naked eye. Using this technology, conservator Chris Pickup from Nottingham Trent University was able to survey the walls of the 400 year old manor in painstaking detail to discover this previously unseen wall etching.

Overlay of new Newtonian graffiti
Overlay of new Newtonian graffiti of a windmill, recently discovered at Woolsthorpe Manor
" It’s amazing to be using light, which Newton understood better than anyone before him, to discover more about his time at Woolsthorpe. I hope that by using this technique we’re able to find out more about Newton as man and boy and shine a light on how his extraordinary mind worked."
- Chris Pickup, Nottingham Trent University

Newton was well known for sketching and making notes on the walls of his rooms. Several sketches, thought to be his, have been previously uncovered by post-Newton tenants when they removed old wallpaper in the 1920s and 30s. 

A portrait of a young Isaac Newton
A portrait of a young Isaac Newton
" The walls, & ceelings were full of drawings, which he had made with charcole. There were birds, beasts, men, ships, plants, mathematical figures, circles, & triangles."
- William Stukeley, friend and biographer of Isaac Newton

Throughout this year at Woolsthorpe, we will be continuing our scientific investigations using thermal imaging to sense tiny differences in the thickness of the plaster and paint covering the walls since Newton’s death. We hope this will reveal even more sketches left by the young genius which are currently hidden from view. 

Interior of Woolsthorpe Hall where the new graffiti was discovered
The interior of Woolsthorpe Manor hall where the new graffiti was discovered
Coloured beams from Woolsthorpe Manor

House of Light event 

You’ll be able to visit the new discovery during our House of Light event this Christmas at Woolsthorpe Manor. The exhibition includes Isaac Newton’s original prism he used to split light.