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When Isaac Newton was Master of the Royal Mint

Currencies are like gravity—what goes up must come down

By Patricia Fara  

Isaac Newton, oil on canvas by Godfrey Kneller, 1702

Isaac Newton knew all about falling apples, but he proved less than expert when it came to playing the stock market. After the South Sea Company promised massive returns from its slave-trading enterprise, Newton gradually built up his stock. In 1720, when the price began climbing steeply, he sensibly sold—but soon made the beginner’s mistake of buying in again at a higher price, only to watch the share value suddenly plummet. By then, he had been in charge of the Royal Mint for over 20 years, so he probably kept quiet about losing a small fortune.

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