Sir Isaac Newton, an English physicist who created the foundations of modern-day classical mechanics. The core of this was his representation of universal gravitation and explains the existing three laws of motion, which he brought together under a single theory system.
This achievement allowed Newton to demonstrate that the motions of celestial bodies were controlled by a single set of universal laws, radically shifting scientific thought away from heliocentrism - the idea of the Sun being at the center of the whole universe - and setting the foundations for Einstein's upcoming theories of general and special relativity over 200 years later.
Newton was born on 4 January 1643 in Lincolnshire, England. He attended the King's School in Grantham, Lincolnshire, from the age of 12 and later, in 1661, was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, in a work-study position. Cambridge at the time was still basing much of its scientific and mathematical teachings on Aristotle, however due to Newton's widespread reading of many modern thinkers, the university was slowly introducing the ideas of Descartes, Kepler and Galileo. He left Cambridge in 1665 with a degree and spent the next two years formulating his theories on calculus, optics and gravitation. Following this work, Newton became increasingly interested in optics, with him lecturing on the subject between 1670 and 1672. It was during this period that he developed the Newtonian telescope (the world's first functional reflecting specimen), which he presented to the Royal Society alongside an investigation into the refraction of light.
The big idea,,
Newton's 1687 Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica laid out much of today's classical mechanics, but arguably its most important theory was that of universal gravitation. Newton's law states that any particle of matter in the universe attracts any other with a force varying directly as the product of the masses and inversely as the square of the distance between them. This notion drew together the logically independent laws of motion set out by Johannes Kepler decades before, which since his death had been accepted but not related to causality, and led to an accurate – even by modern standards – description of how planets, moons and comets move through space. Newton's law has since been succeeded by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, which allows systems to be described with far greater accuracy – especially when they are very large.
He proceeded to conduct much work into the nature and properties of light over the next 30 years, which would culminate in the publication of his 1704 text Opticks. Prior to that, in 1687, Newton published his groundbreaking book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (ie Mathematical Principles Of Natural Philosophy) – which outlined his laws of motion, universal gravitation and a derivation of Johannes Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Even though Newton's genius had been noted prior to the publication of this seminal text, its success established him within the wider scientific society. Indeed, as a result of this work, he would not only be welcomed into the Royal Society, but also knighted by Queen Anne – only the second scientist to have been awarded the title at this time.
"Newton developed the Newtonian telescope (the world's first functional reflecting specimen), which he presented to the Royal Society", More pictures below
Isaac Newton's sketches for a reflecting telescope and its component parts.
A fold-out page from Isaac Newton's 1672 "An Account of a New Kind of Telescope, invented by Mr. Isaac Newton" (photo by Christine Latulippe).
Following a wider print run and subsequent editions, Newton acquired a keen circle of admirers including Edmond Halley and Nicolas Fatio de Duillier. In his later life Newton continued his work in mathematics, astronomy and optics, however also took up the post of warden and then master of the Royal Mint, where he oversaw a great re-coining of the nation's currency. In addition, in 1703 Newton was elected president of the Royal Society and an associate of the French Académie des Sciences. Newton died in his sleep in London on 31 March 1727.
Newton exploring the properties and nature of light.
Walking on his footsteps, William Whiston was a pupil of Newton's and, following his departure, succeeded him as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He is best known today for his work with Roger Cotes on comets.
Also did Albert Einstein; Newton's theory of universal gravitation and codification of classical mechanics formed the basis of Einstein's thinking on astrophysics, allowing him to formulate his famous theories of general and special relativity.
Personal coat of arms of Sir Isaac Newton.
Some facts on the life and times of Sir Isaac Newton
1. Despite Newton's great scientific achievements, he actually wrote more on biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than science. He was a lifelong, if unorthodox, Christian.
2. Newton was only the second scientist in history to be knighted - after Sir Francis Bacon -, which he was awarded in 1705. His coat of arms was a shield with two crossed shinbones.
3. Newton was warden of the Royal Mint during the Great Recoinage of 1696. During his time at the Royal Mint he successfully proved evidence and prosecuted 28 forgers for creating illegal currency.
4. In 1704 Newton attempted to "gather" scientific information from the Bible. From what he extracted from the religious text he predicted that the end of the world (Apocalypse) would come no earlier than 2060.
5. After Newton's death in 1727 his hair was found to contain high levels of mercury, indicating he had suffered mercury poisoning that might caused his death.
Significant years in his life time
1643 Isaac Newton is born on 4 January in Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire, England.
1655 Newton attends the King's School from the age of 12 to 17.
1661 He's accepted into Trinity College, Cambridge. After four years he obtains a maths degree, specializing in calculus.
1670 Newton takes his interest in optics and astronomy to a new level by lecturing on the subjects at Cambridge.
1672 Newton builds his famous reflecting telescope and presents it to the Royal Society of London.
1687 Newton publishes his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica after years of research into gravitation and planetary motion.
1704 Newton publishes (Opticks), which demonstrates how a prism can act as a beam expander and spectrum splitter.
1705 Newton is knighted by Queen Anne - who visits Trinity College - due to his scientific work and role as master of the Royal Mint.
1724 With old age and failing health Newton moves in with his niece and her husband at Cranbury Park, near Winchester, England.
1727 Newton dies in his sleep on 31 March. He is aged 84.
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