The quintessential man of science was also convinced that there was a code in the Bible that predicted the exact date of the Second Coming.
Hebrew University/London Evening Standard
If anyone is the patron saint of modern science -- of the whole scientific outlook as we know it -- Isaac Newton would surely be that man. As James Gleick writes in his biography of Newton, "He was chief architect of the modern world. He answered the ancient philosophical riddles of light and motion, and he effectively discovered gravity. He showed how to predict the courses of heavenly bodies and so established our place in the cosmos. He made knowledge a thing of substance: quantitative and exact. He established principles, and they are called his laws." This is the standard narrative about Newton, but it's not the whole story. As much as today's scientists celebrate Newton, their reverence is matched by that of a very different group: the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
In order to understand Newton's connection to the Adventists, the spiritual descendants of an American preacher named William Miller, we need to be more aware than people usually are about the astonishing range of Newton's interests. In 1936, a large cache of Newton's personal papers -- material that he had never published and in some cases had kept quite secret -- were offered for sale by Sotheby's, and many of them were bought by the great economist John Maynard Keynes. When he got the chance to read what he had purchased, Keynes was surprised and at times appalled. He had known about Newton's interest in alchemy, and may even have been aware that Newton believed Scripture to be full of mathematical codes -- for instance, in the proportions decreed for the construction of Solomon's Temple. But he was not quite prepared for the great man's obsession with biblical prophecy, especially the book of Daniel, a close reading of which had convinced Newton that the world would end in 2060.