Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

1642-1727

Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian who is perceived and considered by a substantial number of scholars and the general public as one of the most influential men in history. His Philosophie Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, is by itself considered to be among the most influential books in the history of science, laying the groundwork for most of classical mechanics. In this work, Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. Newton showed that the motions of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws by demonstrating the consistency between Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and his theory of gravitation, thus removing the last doubts about heliocentrism and advancing the scientific revolution.

In mechanics, Newton enunciated the principles of conservation of both momentum and angular momentum. In optics, he built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of colour based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colours that form the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound.

In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of the differential and integral calculus. He also demonstrated the generalised binomial theorem, developed the so-called “Newton’s method” for approximating the zeroes of a function, and contributed to the study of power series.

Newton remains influential to scientists, as demonstrated by a 2005 survey of scientists and the general public in Britain’s Royal Society asking who had the greater effect on the history of science, Newton or Albert Einstein. Newton was deemed to have made the greater overall contribution to science, although the two men were closer when it came to contributions to humanity.

Newton was also highly religious, though an unorthodox Christian, writing more on Biblical hermeneutics than the natural science he is remembered for today.

Newton Facts:

  • He was born January 4, 1643, in Woolsthorpe, England, United Kingdom.
  • He died March 31, 1727, in London, England, United Kingdom.
  • Newton actually studied for a degree in law.
  • The young Isaac was enrolled in King’s School in Grantham, a town in Lincolnshire .
  • Newton’s mother wanted Isaac to become a farmer, but Isaac had no interest in farming exams and failed!
  • He owned more books on historical subjects than on science.
  • Isaac Newton suffered two nervous breakdowns.
  • Throughout his life Newton continued research into a wide range of subjects including mathematics, optics, astronomy and alchemy.
  • Newton was interested in the new wave of philosophy becoming known in the Western world. He became an acquaintance of the political philosopher John Locke.
  • Newton was notorious for his bad temper and conflicts with other people. In particular Hooke and Leibinz.
  • Between 1665 and 1667 the University of Cambridge was dispersed due to the Plague and Newton returned to Woolsthorpe Manor.
  • Isaac Newton become known in the scientific community through his refractive telescope – a big improvement on existing telescopes.
  • Isaac Newton disliked to hear any criticism and he became embroiled in a bitter row with Robert Hooke, an original member of the Royal Academy.
  • After the death of his mother in 1678, Newton entered six years of intellectual seclusion where he only communicated with the briefest notes.
  • It is claimed Newton’s discovered the theory of gravity after watching an apple fall in the orchard.