Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 343–352 | Cite as

The Body, the Temple and the Newtonian Man Conundrum



From his early days at the University of Cambridge until his death, Isaac Newton had a long running interest in the Temple of Solomon, a topic which appeared in his works on prophecy, chronology and metrology. At the same time that Newton was working on the Principia, he reconstructed the Temple and commented on the reconstructions of others. An important part of his investigations concerned the measurements of the Temple, which were harmonic and were built “exactly as the proportion of architecture demands.” Newton considered these proportions to be in accordance with Book III and IV of De Architectura. However, while insisting on exact architectural proportions, Newton moved away from the traditional proportions of the Vitruvian man; he derived a Newtonian man. This poses an interesting conundrum: Newton accepted the Temple’s architectural proportions as outlined in Vitruvius’s Book III, yet he rejected the human model Vitruvius used as the foundation of these proportions. At the same time Newton accepted the human frame as the basis of all ancient measurements and attempted to estimate the length of the sacred cubit based on the lengths of the parts for the body and the measurements set out by the ancient writers such a Vitruvius.


Isaac Newton Temple of Solomon Vitruvius Vitruvian man Newtonian man proportions 


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Copyright information

© Kim Williams Books, Turin 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The School of Architecture and Built EnvironmentThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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