Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It was founded by Henry VIII in 1546 and soon became one of the best European colleges. I really wanted to visit it in my holidays in England because a lot of notable fellows studied there, like Barrow, Newton, Babbage, Maxwell, Ramanujan, Hardy, … lord Byron, Galton,… Hence I wanted to walk through the same ways and gardens where Isaac Newton walked once!
The main door of the college is always full of tourists attracted by the great names who worked here. However I think that the apple tree planted next to this entrance also contributes to the success of the college. The tree was planted here as a ‘son’ of the famous apple tree located in Newton’s Manor House in Woolsthorpe:
There is a sundial in the courtyard and it’s not difficult to imagine one of this great minds checking his clock with the shadow of the gnomon. Why not?
I’ve visited the chapel which was begun in 1554-55 by Queen Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII, although it was completed by her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I in 1567.
There are six statues in the Ante-Chapel dedicated to Thomas Babington, Lord Tennyson, William Whewell, Sir Francis Bacon and, of course, sir Isaac Newton…
…and Isaac Barrow, “master of Trinity, mathematician and preacher, Newton’s tutor”:
We can read in web of the Trinity College:
Isaac Barrow (1630-77) distinguished himself in Classics, Mathematics and Divinity. He was appointed Regius Professor of Greek three years before becoming the first Lucasian professor of Mathematics -an illustration of the way of the elements of the quadrivium were closely connected in the 17th century. Best known for his discovery of the fundamental theorem of calculus, Barrow resigned the Lucasian chair in favour of his pupil Isaac Newton, and devoted the rest of his life to theology -writing and preaching- and to being the Master of Trinity (1672-77) who commisioned the Wren Library.
The statue of Barrow was commissioned in preference to one of Richard Bentley, who was a more influential but also highly controversial Master. “The foremost scholar and textual critic of his day”, Bentley was regarded, together with Newton, as one of the ‘intellectual founders’ of Trinity, but as Master he ‘ruled like an irresponsible despot’. The statues of Bacon and Barrow were given by William Whewell. Sculptor: Matthew Noble, 1858.
And what about Newton?
Louis-Frabçois Roubiliac’s 1755 statue of Isaac Newton, presented to the Ante-Chapel by the Master Robert Smith, “is the finest work of art in the College, as well as the most moving and significant. The lips parted and the eyes turned up in though give life to marble. The inscription, Qui genus humanum ingenio superavit, is a pun ennobled by its truth”. This inscription is a quotation from the third book of Lucretius’s De rerum natura, meaning ‘in intellect he surprassed/survived the human race’.
Newton (1642-1727) was the greatest English mathematician of his generation. Developing his teacher Isaac Barrow’s work he laid the foundation of differential and integral calculus. His work on optics and gravitation make him one of the greatest scientists the world has known. His 1687 book Philosophiae Naturalis Prinicipia Mathematica lays the foundations for most of classical mechanics. He also excelled in the realms of astronomy, natural philosophy, alchemy, and somewhat unorthodox theology. Newton is buried in Westmisnter Abbey.
The stained glass windows of the chapel are mid-Victorian (1871-5) although the original ones were glazed in 1567 with white glass bearing inscriptions, heraldic badgets and coats of arms.
The present designs were elaborated on a scheme of religious and historical allegories and we can distinguish the portrait of Isaac Newton (the second on the left)…
…and also the portrait of Isaac Barrow in the same window:
There also are portraits of the Venerable Bede and Alcuin.
We can also find Newton’s coat of arms…
… Ramanujan’s brass located on the north wall of the Ante-Chapel with an inscription text by F. H. Sandbach:
Srinivasa Ramanujan discovered many extraordinary facts in Number Theory. G.H. Hardy recognised his exceptional talent, brought him to England, and encouraged his work. Ramanujan was the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society; later he was made a Fellow of the College After a long illness he returned to India for the sake of his health and died at an early age in 1920.
Then… where is Hardy? Hardy’s brass is located in the same north wall and his inscription says:
Godfrey Harold Hardy was Professor of Mathematics at Oxford and then at Cambridge, and was famous for reforming methods of teaching in both places. In his own field he was universally recognised as pre-eminent among the world’s best mathemati-cians. He had little time for the views of others, and he defended his own with energy and humour. He was a Fellow of the College for nineteen years, and for a further sixteen years after his return to Cambridge. He was much loved by his friends. He died on 1st December 1947
The last step in our visit to the Trinity College is the Wren Library. The library was designed by Christopher Wren and completed in 1695. Wren filled it with light comming through the rows of tall windows lining the east and west walls:
The positions of the windows are above the book shelves in order to optimizate the available wall space for storing books.
There are some marble busts by Louis-François Roubiliac and Isaac Barrow is looking after everything from his position in one of the paintings on the walls:
The portrait was painted by Valentine Ritz (c. 1695 – 1745).