Sir Issac Newton
Sir Issac Newton, the greatest ever scientist whose discoveries and inventions laid the cornerstones of modern science and technology, suffered from bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder.
The childhood of the scientist was anything but normal. His father died three months before his birth, and his mother remarried. Since his very childhood Newton showed symptoms of bipolar disorder. He was a solitary child,who did not enjoy the company of boys of his age or getting engaged in games with them. He would spend his time alone making miniature machines, mills or cars or other inventions. He was very egotistical and dominant person with often outbreaks of anger which was mostly directed towards family and friends. At times he would have a spells of remorse when he would regret his ‘sins’ or wrongdoings which included ‘striking many’, ‘punching my sister’, ‘peevishness with my mother’.
During his study at Cambridge he could barely make any friends. He had only one friend in Cambridge. His violent temper made him unpopular among his peers. He was sad, anxious, afraid, suffered from low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts in his student years.
Despite his success and recognition Newton had a paralysing fear of criticism. He would hide his work from publishing out of the fear of being criticized by fellow scientists. “He kept his calculus secret until Leibniz made a claim of discovering it first. And if it wasn’t for his astronomer-friend, Edmund Halley’s encouragement, he probably wouldn’t have published his most important work, the Principia” (Marina, 2014).
Newton continued having manic attracts after he was appointed Fellow of University of cambridge. He used to forget to eat. Such events were usually followed by a collapse into depression.
Newton remained a solitary person throughout his life. He avoided company of people. If he had to interact with them he would contribute least to the conversation. He shared a tyrannical relationship with other scientists and refused to speak to those who would criticize his work or dare to disagree with him.
True to his character, Newton was averse to fame. He would request that his papers should be published under the condition of anonymity.
While Newton was under depressive episode he would hallucinate and engage in conversations with absent people. He also used to have grandiose delusions, which is another symptom of bipolar disorder.
Newton in the Eyes of Keynes
To quote the famous economist John Maynard Keynes, ” For in vulgar modern terms Newton was profoundly neurotic of a not unfamiliar type, but – I should say from the records – a most extreme example. His deepest instincts were occult, esoteric, semantic-with profound shrinking from the world, a paralyzing fear of exposing his thoughts, his beliefs, his discoveries in all nakedness to the inspection and criticism of the world. ‘Of the most fearful, cautious and suspicious temper that I ever knew’, said Whiston, his successor in the Lucasian Chair. The too well-known conflicts and ignoble quarrels with Hooke, Flamsteed, Leibniz are only too clear an evidence of this. Like all his type he was wholly aloof from women. He parted with and published nothing except under the extreme pressure of friends. Until the second phase of his life, he was a wrapt, consecrated solitary, pursuing his studies by intense introspection with a mental endurance perhaps never equalled.”