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Catherine Barton

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Title: Catherine Barton  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Isaac Newton, Infobox scientist/testcases, Early life of Isaac Newton, Geography/DYK/25, John Conduitt
Collection: 1679 Births, 1739 Deaths, Burials at Westminster Abbey, Isaac Newton
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Catherine Barton

Catherine Barton Conduitt
Catherine as a young woman
Born Catherine Barton
Died 1739 (aged 59–60)
Spouse(s) John Conduitt
Relatives Robert Barton (father)
Hannah Smith (mother)
Isaac Newton (uncle)

Catherine Barton (1679–1739) was Isaac Newton's half-niece, probable mistress of Charles Montagu and later, the wife of John Conduitt.


  • Early life 1
  • Relationship to Charles Montagu 2
  • Marriage 3
  • Later life 4
  • In fiction 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7

Early life

She was the second daughter of Robert Barton and his second wife, Hannah Smith, half-sister of Isaac Newton, and was baptized at Brigstock, Northampton on 25 November 1679.[1]

She was remarked upon by several men to be beautiful, witty and clever. Sometime after her uncle Isaac moved to London to become Warden of the Mint in April 1696 she moved there to live with him.[2] She was known as a brilliant conversationalist, and attracted the admiration of such famous figures as Jonathan Swift and Voltaire.[3] Her uncle Isaac was also fond of her; an excerpt of an uncharacteristically warm letter from Newton survives, regarding her contraction of smallpox: "Pray let me know by your next how your face is and if your fevour be going. Perhaps warm milk from ye Cow may help to abate it. I am Your loving Unkle, Is. Newton."[4]

Voltaire insinuated that Newton's preferment to the Royal Mint was the result of her alleged affair with Charles Montagu. However, although it is true that Isaac was appointed under the patronage of Charles Montagu, it is clear that Catherine Barton came up to London and met Montagu after the appointment, not before.[5]

Relationship to Charles Montagu

Following the death of Charles Montagu's wife in 1698, Barton became his housekeeper and probably his mistress. There was much contemporary gossip on the subject, and thinly disguised accusations appeared in print. Delariviere Manley's Memoirs of 1710 featured a character called Bartica who was widely taken to represent Barton.

Montagu, by then Earl of Halifax, died of an inflammation of the lungs in May 1715.

His will contained two [6]


Barton then returned to live with her uncle at his home in St Martin's Street. On 9 July 1717 she became engaged to marry John Conduitt who had only set foot in England a few weeks earlier in May of that year. On 23 August they were issued a licence to marry at St Paul's Covent Garden, but actually married three days later at St Martin in the Fields.[7] The couple had one daughter, Catherine, born in 1721.[8]

Later life

The couple lived at Cranbury Park, near Winchester; towards the end of his life, Sir Isaac Newton took up residence at Cranbury with his niece and her husband until his death in 1727.[9]

Her husband John Conduitt died on 23 May 1737; she died in 1739 and was buried with her uncle and husband in Westminster Abbey.[10] Their only daughter and heir Catherine married John Wallop, Viscount Lymington, the eldest son of the first Earl of Portsmouth, and their son, John Wallop, succeeded as second Earl of Portsmouth.[11]

In fiction

A fictional Barton has a small role in Neal Stephenson's novel The System of the World, the final installment in Stephenson's Baroque Cycle.

She also has a role in Philip Kerr's novel Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton.


  1. ^ Robert Barton's will, PROB11/416, National Archives; Parish register, Northampton Record Office.
  2. ^ By her own account she was at his house when he received and solved Bernoulli's problem on 30 January 1697, King's College Cambridge, Keynes mss 129A & mss 130.5; Newton Correspondence Vol 4 p220.
  3. ^ Swift, Journal to Stella, entries in 1710 and 1711.
  4. ^ Newton Correspondence Vol 4, p349.
  5. ^ Newton Correspondence, Vol 4, p195; & previous reference.
  6. ^ Will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, PROB11/546, National Archives.
  7. ^ Hants Record Office; Marriage Licences issued from the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury at London, 1543–1869, Harl Soc vol 24, 1886.
  8. ^ St Martin in the fields register, Westminster Record Office.
  9. ^  
  10. ^ Westminster Abbey registers, Harliean Society.
  11. ^ The current one possesses the famous portrait by Sir Godfrey KnellerIsaac Newton, 1689.
  • The Newton Project

Further reading

Augustus De Morgan, Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan, Arthur Cowper Ranyard. Newton: his friend, and his niece. 1st ed (reprinted). London: Dawsons, 1968. 161 pp. isbn 0712903305.

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