Isaac Newton was appointed Warden of the Royal Mint in the spring of 1696 on the recommendation of Charles Montague, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Public office was new to him, but nevertheless it was an opportunity which he had sought, and Montague’s letter of 19 March 1696 notifying him of the king’s promise of the vacant post of Warden would not have been unwelcome.
The Royal Mint was then in the Tower of London and it was accordingly to the Tower that Newton came in April 1696 to take up his new duties. It was a time of great activity, for the Royal Mint was grappling with the recoinage of old silver coins dating back to the reign of Elizabeth I and beyond. Auxiliary mints were being set up in various parts of the country, and Newton was quickly caught up in the pressure of the moment. The enormous operation was completed within three years, leaving Newton more time to devote to his main duty of investigating and bringing to justice those who clipped and counterfeited the coin of the realm.
In 1699 the post of Master of the Royal Mint fell vacant by the death of Thomas Neale. Though technically less senior than that of Warden, it was a more lucrative post because the Master acted as a contractor to the Crown and profited from the rates at which he put the work out to sub-contractors. The Mastership was offered to Newton and he took up its duties with effect from Christmas Day 1699. Surviving the political upheavals of those troubled times, he remained as Master until his death in March 1727.
It was plainly a time when, if Newton chose, there were important questions requiring his supervision and judgement, practical control and administrative skill. And from the start there is no doubt of an active involvement in the affairs of the Royal Mint.