Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician

and physicist, considered one of the greatest

scientists in history. He made important

contributions to many fields of science. His

discoveries and theories laid the foundation for

much of the progress in science. Newton was one

of the inventors of a mathematics called calculus.

He also solved the mysteries of light and optics,

formulated the three laws of motion, and derived

from them the law of universal gravitation. Newton

was born on December 25, 1642, at

Woolsthorpe, near Grantham in Lincolnshire.

When he was three years old, he was put in care

of his Grandmother. He then was sent to grammar

school in Grantham. Then later he attended Trinity

College at the University of Cambridge. Newton

ignored much of the established curriculum of the

university to pursue his own interests; mathematics

and natural philosophy. Proceeding entirely on his

own, he investigated the latest developments in

mathematics and the new natural philosophy that

treated nature as a complicated machine. Almost

immediately, still under the age of 25, he made

fundamental discoveries that were instrumental in

his career science. The Fluxional Method,

Newton’s first achievement was in mathematics.

He generalized the methods that were being used

to draw tangents to curves and to calculate the

area swept by curves. He recognized that the two

procedures were inverse operations. By joining

them in what he called the fluxional method,

Newton developed in 1666 a kind of mathematics

that is known as calculus. Calculus was a new and

powerful method that carried modern mathematics

above the level of Greek geometry. Optics was

another area of Newton’s early interests. In trying

to explain how colors occur, he arrived at the idea

that sunlight is a heterogeneous blend of different

colors of which represents a different color. And

that reflections, and refraction’s cause colors to

appear by separating the blend into its

components. Newton demonstrated his theory of

colors by passing a beam of sunlight through a

type of prism, which split the beam into separate

colors. In August 1684 Newton was visited by

Edmund Halley, the British astronomer and

mathematician, who discussed with Newton the

problem of orbital motion. Newton had also

pursued the science of mechanics as an

undergraduate, and at that time he had already

entertained basic notions about universal

gravitation. As result of Halley’s visit, Newton

returned to these studies. During the next three

years, Newton established the modern science of

dynamics by formulating his three laws of motion.

Newton applied these laws to Kepler’s laws of

orbital motion, and derived the law of universal

gravitation. Newton is probably best known for

discovering universal gravitation, which explains

that all bodies in space and on earth are affected

by the force called gravity. He published this

theory in his book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia

Mathematica or Principia as it was called, in 1687.

This book marked a turning point in the history of

science; it also ensured that its author could never

regain his privacy. The Principia’s appearance also

involved Newton in an unpleasant episode with the

English philosopher and physicist, Robert Hooke.

In 1687 Hooke claimed that Newton had stolen

from him a central idea of the book: that bodies

attract each other with a force that varies inversely

as the square of their distance. However, most

historians do not accept Hooke’s charge of

plagiarism. The following four years were filled

with intense activity for Newton. With the success

of the Principia, he tried to put all his earlier

achievements into a final written form. In the

summer of 1693 Newton showed symptoms of a

severe emotional disorder. Although he regained

his health, his creative period had come to an end.

Sir Isaac Newton’s great discoveries left us with a

unified system of laws, that could be applied to an

enormous range of physical phenomena. These

applications let Newton predict precisely the

motion of the stars, and the planets around the

sun. Newton’s book the Principia is still

recognized as the greatest scientific book ever

written. And no, an apple never hit him on the

head.

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