In 1665, the colleges of Cambridge began shutting down. Fellows and students dispersed into the countryside.
The years 1665-67 were the plague years. From James Gleick’s Isaac Newton:
…rumors were reaching England of a new pestilence in Holland – perhaps from Italy, or the Levant, perhaps from Crete or Cyprus…..Before the outbreak ran its course, in little more than a year, it killed one in every six Londoners. Newton’s mother wrote from Woolsthorpe:
Received your letter..
Love to you with my motherly lov
…prayers to god for you
I your loving mother
Wollstrup may the 6. 1665
So, what did Newton do?
Newton returned home. He built bookshelves and made a study for himself…..He set himself problems; considered them obsessively; calculated answers; and asked new questions. …The plague year was his transfiguration. Solitary and almost incommunicado, he became the world’s paramount mathematician.
Social distancing. Mathematical research.
In creating this mathematics (Calculus!) Newton embraced a paradox. He believed in discrete mathematics – not infinitesimal. …Yet be built a mathematical framework that was not discrete but continuous….It was nature’s destiny now to be mathematized. Henceforth space would have dimension and measures; motion would be subject to geometry….He was twenty-four and he had made tools.
Newton created the epidemic of Scientific Revolution. 😏