Physicist, mathematician, furious dildo-hater.
The story of Sir Isaac Newton and the apple is well known—the physicist watched an apple fall from a tree and, wondering why objects fell straight down rather than upwards or off to the side, had a eureka moment that eventually led to his three laws of motion. However, there was one particular type of motion that Newton hated—the one that sometimes involves one body part going in and out of another.
Newton was not just disinterested in sex but actively appalled by the idea, accusing one former friend of "endeavouring to embroil me with woemen" [sic]. He was described by one peer as having “a constitutional indifference to the sex in general”. He was known for being particularly vicious and vindictive towards people he fell out with or considered his rivals.
He also had a lengthy feud with a dildo salesman.
William Chaloner was born in 1650, seven years after Newton, and was apprenticed to a nail-maker. However, he was extremely ambitious and immediately drawn to the idea of elevating himself by whatever means he could. Chaloner was celebrated for his ability to talk himself out of trouble, and various people out of large sums of money. MIT historian Thomas Levenson unearthed a biography of Chaloner written slightly after his death, which described him as “having the best knack at Tongue-pudding”. It also pointed out how “the first part of his Ingenuity showed itself in making Tin Watches, with D-does &c in 'em.”
D-does were, of course, dildos, and in 17th-century London, they were quite the hot item, being imported and sold on the black market. According to Levenson’s book, as early as 1660, "there were reports of imported Italian dildos being sold on St James's Street".
When the Duke of York was engaged to an Italian Catholic, Mary Modena, in 1673, a satirical song about the main benefit of a union between Britain and Italy being a tidal wave of dildos became incredibly popular. The song, Signor Dildo, led to ‘signor’ becoming a popular euphemism that lasted decades.
Chaloner’s underground dildo escapades went hand-in-hand with some other frowned-upon activities, and he was soon making a living as a quack doctor and soothsayer, as well as offering his services retrieving stolen goods. His technique for ensuring he found them was simple: he had stolen them in the first place.
He moved on to forgery, which he excelled at. He managed to make so much counterfeit money that he was able to buy a large country house and reinvent himself as a gentleman, even going as far as to offer his services to the Royal Mint, the very institution he was undermining daily. He was frequently arrested but had the incredible ability to turn things around, often ending up not only being released quickly but receiving various rewards.
However, one of the many positions Newton held in his life as Master of the Royal Mint, and he had a particular dislike for counterfeiters. He spent a huge amount of time and effort building watertight cases by going undercover in bars and catching “coiners” unaware and finally got Chaloner.
On March 22, 1699, Chaloner was hanged – one of the most gravity-based methods of execution there has ever been. He was then publicly disemboweled.
Sir Isaac Newton died in 1727, aged 84 and by all accounts a virgin. His impact on physics, astronomy, and mathematics can’t be overstated—the man was a genius of a rare kind—but it’s hard not to imagine what could have been if he wasn’t also walking around seething with rage, desperate to crush rivals and vanquish his foes. What breakthroughs might have happened if he wasn’t busy putting disguises on to interview drunks about forgeries? What epoch-shifting idea did he not quite get to because he was so livid at this dildo guy?
There might be an alternate universe where we have world peace and flying cars because Sir Isaac Newton learned that pleasure wasn’t the enemy, and left dildo sellers to ply their wares in peace. One can dream.