13. Newton answered criticism with acrimony as much as he did with reason
When Newton’s thoughts and discoveries on the nature of light were published he received criticism on both his theories and his lack of acknowledging the contributions of others on which he had relied to form his conclusions. The failure to acknowledge contributions from others was a frequent accusation directed at Newton throughout his career. When John Flamsteed, an English astronomer whose work had been used by Newton while forming his postulations on gravity, complained that Newton had failed to properly cite his contributions it started a long quarrel between the two scientists. Flamsteed complained in writing to another member of the Royal Society.
Flamsteed’s complaint was that Newton, in arriving at his conclusions over gravity, had “used the ore he had dug”. Newton responded with a comment along the lines of if Flamsteed had dug the ore it was he (Newton) who had formed the useless rock into a gold ring. Still, the comments must have stung Newton, for he began to exhibit an aversion to publishing his work, despite his promises to support the Royal Society by diligently doing so as regularly as possible. Newton once wrote to Leibniz of his hesitation to publish (before their quarrel), “…I conceive myself to have discovered the surest of explanations, but I refrain from publishing books for fear that disputes and controversies may be raised against me by ignoramuses.” Newton was referring to his discoveries of the properties of light.