This recent question about a time traveller who visits Newton reminded me of this short story, which I think I read in Omni in the early 1980's.

A man travels back in time, hoping to spare Isaac Newton the bother of making tedious calculations by giving him a calculator.


Newton thinks the calculator is the work of the Devil and attacks the man, who retreats to his own time. Newton abjures doing science from that moment on.


1 Answer 1


This one is "Newton's Gift" by Paul Nahin from Omni, in January 1979

The story is available here Link to scan of Omni

This link has a description Description of the story

Time traveller Wallace John Steinhope believes that he will be able to help his hero, Isaac Newton, avoid the tedium of computation by bringing him an electronic calculator that can do simple arithmetic. Unfortunately, Newton concludes (perhaps reasonably, given what he knows and what he is shown) that the calculator is a tool of Satan and so is not the grateful recipient that Wallace had expected. (Perhaps the point is this: the story serves as a kind of "myth" to explain why Newton, revered today for his brilliant scientific mind, turned to religion and superstition when he became older.)

P.S. The time traveler proved the calculator worked, by

dividing 81918 by 123 - which equals 666


  • 21
    Back in the 70s, people were foolish enough to accept claims that people in the more distant past were stupid.
    – Andrew
    Apr 27, 2022 at 12:36
  • 7
    @Andrew 😂😂😂 LOL So if we accept that statement, it must be the distant past now? Apr 27, 2022 at 12:46
  • 4
    @MarkRogers You put the comment in the past tense. Superstition appears to pop up quite frequently in the present day. Confirmed by browsing a few facebook threads.
    – doneal24
    Apr 27, 2022 at 17:10
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    @MarkOlson: Newton did have quite a few weird ideas. He fiddled around with alchemy and bible codes, among other things, and he also invested a great deal of time and effort in theology, something that we don't often associate with him today.
    – Kevin
    Apr 27, 2022 at 17:48
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    To Newton’s credit, alchemy (let’s say transmutation) is only obviously foolish once you have figured out atomic theory; he didn’t have that tool. Besides, it turns out that alchemist were correct and transmutation is perfectly possible, it’s just that the alchemist were not trying with the correct methods (that’s why they needed more research right?) and that “making gold” turns out to be far FAR more expensive than just mining it (see nuclear fission/fusion). Apr 27, 2022 at 22:16

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