Translations of [J.-B. Biot], ‘Newton (Isaac)’, in L. G. Michaud (ed.), Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne, 83 vols (Paris: Michaud Frères, 1811–53), vol. 31 (1822), pp. 127–94’, as rendered in J. B. Biot, ‘Life of Newton’, trans. H. Elphinstone (1829), in Lives of Eminent Persons, Library of Useful Knowledge (London: Baldwin & Cradock, 1833), reprinted in R. Iliffe, M. Keynes and R. Higgitt (eds), Early Biographies of Isaac Newton, 1660–1885, 2 vols (London, Pickering & Chatto, 2006), vol. 2: R. Higgitt (ed.), Nineteenth-Century Biography of Isaac Newton: Public Debate and Private Controversy, pp. 1–63, unless otherwise stated. Translations of other texts, or in different chapters, are given in the notes.
Where Elphinstone's translation has significantly altered the meaning, or where he did not translate a phrase at all, a modern translation has been provided. Elphinstone's translation was neither faithful nor very skilful. His alterations tended to moderate Biot's heightened language and the image of the Romantic genius.
p. 23, ‘le créateur … jamais existé’ (p. 169): ‘almost the creator of Natural Philosophy, as one of the chief promoters of mathematical analysis’ (Elphinstone, p. 43). The translation adds the ‘almost’ and misses out ‘foremost among the physicists that have ever existed’.
p. 23, ‘la prééminence … de l'esprit humain’ (p. 165): ‘a lasting pre-eminence over all other productions of the human mind’ (Elphinstone, p. 39). The translation adds ‘lasting’.
p. 23, ‘un homme qui … à Newton même’ (p. 139): ‘a man of extensive acquirements, and of an original turn of thought, with great activity of mind’ (Elphinstone, p. 13). ‘A man who, for genius of invention and extent of insight was scarcely inferior to Newton himself ’ (translation Caroline Higgitt).
p. 23, ‘une excessive ambition de renommée’ (p. 139): ‘an excessive desire of renown’ (Elphinstone, p. 13).
p. 23, ‘le grand avantage … dans les sciences’ (p. 139): ‘the great advantage possessed by Newton, and which assured to his researches a precision and a certainty hitherto unknown in science’ (Elphinstone, p. 14).