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As we face a tragic pandemic in the world today, it's important to remember this isn't the first time humanity has faced a deadly virus — and it turns out back in Isaac Newton's time, the famed scientist thought the cure for the pandemic he was living through consisted of (among other things) toad vomit.
No one can really blame Newton for his toad vomit lozenges at a time when the black plague could creep up on entire populations unexpectedly. Modern medicine was just not a thing in 1669. Cures for all sorts of ailments ranged from dung to mummy dust, but it is ironic that the genius who revolutionized math and physics created a plague prescription so bizarre it could have come straight out of a fever dream. Now the original manuscript with the handwritten recipe for Newton’s lozenges is being auctioned by Bonham’s — starting at $65,000.
Just the preparation for these things is something of a nightmare. Assuming you’ve been able to procure a toad, hang it upside down in your chimney for three days or until it vomits and dies. So many questions. Why a toad? Why the chimney? Does any of this make scientific sense? Probably not, but you need to make sure you pick up all the vomit, which Newton described as having “earth with various insects in it”. You then need to grind up the toad after it is dead and presumably dry. Mix toad powder with toad vomit, and then you have the supposed miracle lozenges on any area where you might be getting plague boils.
There was obviously no vaccine or cure for the black plague, and the toad lozenges must have not worked out too well regardless, since over 100,000 people succumbed in London alone. At least Newton had some common sense when it came to disease. Other pages from the same notebook advise people to stay away from places where the plague was known to be festering, and not to touch anything that had been touched by someone infected. Because there was no way of knowing that sometimes, it was better to just self-quarantine and not touch anything at all. Sound familiar?
The auction can be found right here, for anyone who has the estimated $85-120K to burn or is just curious to see how much a recipe for toad vomit lozenges can be worth.