伊 萨克·牛顿不是一个讨人喜欢的人物。他和其他院士的关系声名狼藉。他晚年的大部分时间都是在激然的争吵纠纷中渡过。随着那部肯定是物理学有史以来最有影响 的书——《数学原理》的出版，牛顿很快就成为名重一时的人物。他被任命为皇家学会主席，并成为第一个被授予爵士的科学家。
牛 顿不久就与皇家天文学家约翰·夫莱姆斯梯德发生冲突。他早先曾提供牛顿许多《原理》一书所需的数据，后来他扣压了牛顿需要的资料。牛顿是不许别人回答 “不“字的，他自封为皇家天文台的大总管，然后迫使立即出版这些数据。最后，他指使夫莱姆斯梯德的冤家对头爱德蒙·哈雷夺得夫莱姆斯梯德的工作成果，并且 准备出版。可是夫莱姆斯梯德告到法庭去，在最紧要关头，赢得了法庭的判决：不得散发这剽窃的著作。牛顿被激怒了，作为报复，他就在后来的《原理》版本中系 统地删除所有来自夫莱姆斯梯德的引证。
他 和德国哲学家高特夫瑞德·莱布尼兹之间发生了更严重的争吵。莱布尼兹和牛顿各自独立地发展了叫做微积分的数学分支，它是大部分近代物理的基础。虽然现在我 们知道，牛顿发现微积分要比莱布尼兹早若干年，可是他很晚才出版他的著作。随着关于谁是第一个发现者的严重争吵的发生，科学家们激烈地为双方作辩护。然而 值得注意的是，大多数为牛顿辩护的文章均出自牛顿本人之手，只不过仅仅用朋友的名义出版而已！当争论日趋激烈时，莱布尼兹犯了向皇家学会起诉来解决这一争 端的错误。牛顿作为其主席，指定了一个清一色的由牛顿的朋友组成的“公正的“委员会来审查此案。更有甚者后来牛顿自己写了一个委员会报告，并让皇家学会将 其出版，正式地谴责莱布尼兹剽窃。牛顿还不满意，他又在皇家学会自己的杂志上写了一篇匿名的、关于该报告的回顾。据报道，莱布尼兹死后，牛顿扬言他为伤透 了莱布尼兹的心而洋洋得意。
在 这两次争吵期间，牛顿已经离开剑桥和学术。在剑桥他曾积极从事反天主教运动，后来在议会中也很活跃，最终作为酬报，他得到皇家造币厂厂长的肥缺。在这里， 他以社会上更能接受的方式，施展他那狡狯和刻薄的能耐，成功地导演了一场反对伪币的重大战役，甚至将几个人送上了绞刑架
Isaac Newton was not a pleasant man. His relations with other academics were notorious, with most of his later life spent embroiled in heated disputes. Following publication of Principia Mathematica – surely the most influential book ever written in physics – Newton had risen rapidly into public prominence. He was appointed president of the Royal Society and became the first scientist ever to be knighted.
Newton soon clashed with the Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, who had earlier provided Newton with much-needed data for Principia, but was now withholding information that Newton wanted. Newton would not take no for an answer: he had himself appointed to the governing body of the Royal Observatory and then tried to force immediate publication of the data. Eventually he arranged for Flamsteed’s work to be seized and prepared for publication by Flamsteed’s mortal enemy, Edmond Halley. But Flamsteed took the case to court and, in the nick of time, won a court order preventing distribution of the stolen work. Newton was incensed and sought his revenge by systematically deleting all references to Flamsteed in later editions of Principia.
A more serious dispute arose with the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. Both Leibniz and Newton had independently developed a branch of mathematics called calculus, which underlies most of modern physics.
Although we now know that Newton discovered calculus years before Leibniz, he published his work much later. A major row ensued over who had been first, with scientists vigorously defending both contenders. It is remarkable, however, that most of the articles appearing in defense of Newton were originally written by his own hand – and only published in the name of friends! As the row grew, Leibniz made the mistake of appealing to the Royal Society to resolve the dispute. Newton, as president, appointed an “impartial“ committee to investigate, coincidentally consisting entirely of Newton’s friends! But that was not all: Newton then wrote the committee’s report himself and had the Royal Society publish it, officially accusing Leibniz of plagiarism. Still unsatisfied, he then wrote an anonymous review of the report in the Royal Society’s own periodical. Following the death of Leibniz, Newton is reported to have declared that he had taken great satisfaction in “breaking Leibniz’s heart.“ During the period of these two disputes, Newton had already left Cambridge and academe. He had been active in anti-Catholic politics at Cambridge, and later in Parliament, and was rewarded eventually with the lucrative post of Warden of the Royal Mint. Here he used his talents for deviousness and vitriol in a more socially acceptable way, successfully conducting a major campaign against counterfeiting, even sending several men to their death on the gallows.