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British Physico-Theological Poetry and Newtonian Physics

The Use of Principia Mathematica (1687) in Sir Richard Blackmore’s Creation (1712)

Benedetta Burgio    Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano    



The turn of the eighteenth century was a time in which science and literature were mutually enriching disciplines. Those years witnessed extraordinary advancements in natural philosophy. Newton was the most prominent and influential among the natural philosophers whose thought contributed to the scientific revolution and his work altered dramatically the way in which the universe was understood. His Principia Mathematica (1687) crowned the new tradition of physico-mathematics and contributed to shaping the new trend in natural theology known as physico-theology. Physico-theology was at the crossroads of natural theology and natural philosophy and employed the new science to demonstrate the existence and attributes of God, and it was often given expression in poetry. One of the earliest and most accomplished instances of physico-theological poetry is Sir Richard Blackmore’s Creation (1712), which successfully synthesised the latest scientific theories. Blackmore’s verses have been neglected for centuries and it is the aim of this article to pay critical attention to his accomplishment, in particular regarding Blackmore’s use of the Newtonian physics of the Principia.

April 13, 2023
Jan. 30, 2023
Jan. 6, 2023

Keywords: Eighteenth-century PoetrySir Richard BlackmoreNatural TheologyPhysico-theology­Newtonian PhysicsCreation

Copyright: © 2022 Benedetta Burgio. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.