8. Newton prosecuted counterfeiters relentlessly
Newton is remembered primarily as a scientist and mathematician today, with an emerging reputation as a biblical scholar, but for more than half of his adult life he was a government functionary, as first Warden, and later as Master, of the Royal Mint. The positions were obtained for him as sinecures, as a source of income. Newton waited some time for the appointment, at one point claiming that Charles Montagu, responsible for the appointment, bore a grudge against him. When Montagu became Chancellor of the Exchequer he made the appointment, noting that the duties were less than onerous and should not require much of Newton’s time away from his scientific work.
Newton threw himself into the role, investigating counterfeiting and the clipping of coins with enthusiasm, even disguising himself in taverns to uproot counterfeiters, and prosecuting them vigorously. One such counterfeiter was convicted by Newton and after his high-ranking friends succeeded in gaining his release from prison Newton prosecuted him a second time. The evidence which Newton presented and the vigor of his prosecution led to the counterfeiter being convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, after which he was taken down still alive and drawn and quartered. Newton’s zeal led to another 28 convictions and executions for counterfeiting, all of which he pursued with pious glee.