Sheffield University wants disclaimers on Isaac Newton’s theories, says he benefited from ‘colonial activity’.
Isaac Newton may have laid the foundations of modern physics, but professors at Sheffield University reportedly think he benefited from “colonial-era activity,” and the engineering curriculum should be “decolonized” as a result.
Leaked documents show that the professors are planning to overhaul their physics courses to explain the “global origins and historical context” of Newton’s theories with an “inclusive curriculum development” plan.
Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion and universal gravitation form the core of modern physics, which is as apolitical a subject as one can imagine. However, the faculty of engineering at Sheffield University wants students to understand the “global origins and historical context” of his theories, and that he may have benefited from “colonial-era activity.”
“The plans form part of the engineering faculty’s efforts to ‘challenge long-standing conscious and unconscious biases’ among students to tackle ‘Eurocentric’ and ‘white saviour’ approaches to science and maths, and promote ‘inclusive design,’” reports the Telegraph, who obtained the documents.
The document says that important scientists such as Paul Dirac, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Newton, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz “could be considered as benefiting from colonial-era activity.”
Last month the Telegraph revealed an Oxford professor branded musical notation “colonialist” as part of faculty proposals to challenge the “complicity in white supremacy” of its music curriculum, which spans Mozart and Beethoven.
Additional Reports from RT:
Newton’s discoveries are many. In addition to his three laws of motion and law of universal gravitation, set out in 1787 in Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Newton also built the first reflecting telescope, published theories of color and the speed of sound, and contributed to the development of calculus, alongside Leibniz.
Newton was less canny with his investments than he was with his research, and the only known example of him dabbling in the dark side of the colonial era was an investment in the slave-trading South Sea Company. Far from benefiting Newton, this investment lost him £20,000, a fortune at the time.
Even some of the most committed diversity-and-inclusion specialists aren’t keen on the idea of “decolonizing” physics.
“I’m employed by universities to do this training but for me equality, diversity and inclusion training is equality of opportunity, diversity of thought and inclusivity of action – that’s all,” one unnamed diversity consultant told the Telegraph. “This is something different altogether. It is blatantly teaching people to be activists.”