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Happy 1,000 Thony C! April 6, 2009

Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
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It’s a running source of amusement between Chris Donohue and me that by far the most popular post on this site is guest contributor Thony Christie’s discussion of Newton’s prism experiments and theory of color for Hump-Day History back in December, which has just received its 1,000th page view.

By coincidence we’ve arrived at Schaffer’s well-known piece on Newton’s prism experiments in our ongoing exploration of his work, so in honor of Thony’s massive success with his piece, I’ll be doing a write-up of that piece (combined with Schaffer’s piece on astronomy’s “personal equation”) some time this week

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1. Thony C. - April 7, 2009

This is really f#*#ing embarrassing. Week for week Will posts superb essays on all aspects of the history of science; wonderful extensive book revues that make you want to rush out and buy the reviewed volume at once, thoughtful and provocative pieces on the historiography and methodology of the history of science that make one seriously reconsider ones own fossilised view on the subject and last but by no means least excellent concise expositions on significant figures and events in the history of science in his Hump-Day postings and then I come along and post one scrubby little piece on Newton’s first scientific paper and steal the show in terms of page views! As I said really f*#*ing embarrassing, I can only hope that those people who come here to read my contribution stay around long enough to discover the true excellence of Will’s work; the reason that I come here every day.

It is however interesting to speculate as to why my Newton post has proved so popular, I can discern three reasons that I think may have contributed. Firstly Newton is one of the few true history of science mega stars, others are Galileo and Einstein. Newton always attracts significantly more interest from the general reader that virtually any other figure in the history of science. This was not always the case and there is a good book from Patricia Fara “Newton: The Making of Genius” which chronicles Newton’s posthumous rise, as the personification of science, to legendary status in the 18th and 19th century. My only criticism is that Fara deliberately down plays Newton’s fame in his own lifetime in order to make the later deification appear even more spectacular.

The second reason for the success of my post lies, I think, in the very positive recommendation and link delivered by the Aussie Anthropoid philosopher of biology, John Wilkins; getting a recommendation from a gorilla works wonders! I had previously made two postings on John’s web site “Evolving Thought”, which had attracted a substantial amount of traffic and so when John made the nod in this direction the mob followed.

Thirdly I submitted my piece to “Giant’s Shoulders”, which almost certainly also generated extra traffic.

I look forward to Will’s analysis of Schaffer’s piece on the Newton prism experiments, which I had not known previously but which I have read with profit subsequent to my Newton piece thanks to Will’s recommendation.

I wish Will and all who come here a happy spring fertility fest on the weekend ThC.

2. Will Thomas - April 7, 2009

Thanks for the analysis, Thony (and very much for the kind words!). I think you’re right. We did get a nice initial peak from John’s Evolving Thoughts, and we did get a nice second peak from Giant’s Shoulders. Combined, that must have put it at a respectable place in the Google rankings (for a while, you could put in stuff like “Newton” and “light”, or “prism” and “experiment” and the post would be on the first page). We have a very high ranking for “deutsche Physik” as well, but, since it’s Newton, after all, it guarantees a regular flow of visitors.

No need to be embarrassed, though! It’s a great piece, and we’re very glad to have it in the archives generating traffic—any time you feel inspired to send along something else, please do!


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