Posted by: Prospector PJ19 JUN 2012
Sir Isaac Newton may be most famous for his theory of gravity, but during his 30-year tenure as Master of the Royal Mint the great scientist also saved the UK economy the equivalent of about £10m, according to a recent article in New Scientist.
While in that post Newton implemented measures to standardise the nation’s gold coins in order to prevent rich goldsmiths exploiting a currency loophole.
The quality of coins produced by the Royal Mint is assessed every year at the “Trial of the Pyx”, a ceremony that has taken place since the 13th century. As coins are minted a few from each batch are placed in a small chest, or pyx, and weighed to determine how far they stray from the required standard. If coins weighed more than their face value goldsmiths would buy them, melt them down and sell them back to the Mint at a profit. Analysis of records from these trials showed that Newton reduced the standard deviation of the distribution of the coins’ weight from 1.3 grains to 0.75 grains.
It is not clear how Newton achieved this, but researchers suggest that he may have applied his recently derived “cooling law” to slow the coins’ cooling and reduce variability. However he did it, Newton is thought to have saved the mint £41,510, or around £3m in today’s money, during his time there. Because the four masters who followed him also applied his techniques, Newton may have saved the country around £10m.