Newton's Cenotaph


“Sublime spirit! Vast and profound genius! Divine being! Accept the homage of my weak talents... Oh, Newton!” With these words, French architect and designer Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728–99) dedicated his design for an imaginary cenotaph (empty tomb) in honor of the English physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727). Like many intellectuals of his day, Boullée was fascinated by Newtonian physics. His design illustrates perfectly the general characteristics of his work and that of the architecture of the end of the 18th century: large simple masses free from any superfluous decoration, and buildings whose forms express their purpose. Boullée was an academician who taught at the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and the Académie Royale d’Architecture in Paris. He influenced many of his contemporaries by his works and his teaching.

Last updated: January 8, 2018