I tooke a bodkine gh & put it betwixt my eye & [the] bone as neare to [the] backside of my eye as I could: & pressing my eye [with the] end of it (soe as to make [the] curvature a, bcdef in my eye) there appeared severall white darke & coloured circles r, s, t, &c. Which circles were plainest when I continued to rub my eye [with the] point of [the] bodkine, but if I held my eye & [the] bodkin still, though I continued to presse my eye [with] it yet [the] circles would grow faint & often disappeare untill I removed [them] by moving my eye or [the] bodkin.
If [the] experiment were done in a light roome so [that] though my eyes were shut some light would get through their lidds There appeared a greate broade blewish darke circle outmost (as ts), & [within] that another light spot srs whose colour was much like [that] in [the] rest of [the] eye as at k. Within [which] spot appeared still another blew spot r espetially if I pressed my eye hard & [with] a small pointed bodkin. & outmost at vt appeared a verge of light.
[illustration and text From Isaac Newton’s handwritten notebook essay ‘Of Colours’, c. 1666]
I cannot even apply eyedrops without flinching, and Isaac Newton willingly stuck a bodkin1 into his eye socket and rubbed it around, just to see what would happen.
We all celebrate Newton as a genius, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that he was also the height of 17th century whatthefuckery.
- The kind of bodkin which was likely, in Newton’s time, a long and blunt needle used as a hairpin. Think of it as the equivalent of jamming a modern butter knife into your eye. Yeah. ↩