Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematicianand physicist, considered one of the greatestscientists in history. He made importantcontributions to many fields of science. Hisdiscoveries and theories laid the foundation formuch of the progress in science. Newton was oneof the inventors of a mathematics called calculus.
He also solved the mysteries of light and optics,formulated the three laws of motion, and derivedfrom them the law of universal gravitation. Newtonwas born on December 25, 1642, atWoolsthorpe, near Grantham in Lincolnshire.When he was three years old, he was put in careof his Grandmother. He then was sent to grammarschool in Grantham. Then later he attended TrinityCollege at the University of Cambridge. Newtonignored much of the established curriculum of theuniversity to pursue his own interests; mathematicsand natural philosophy. Proceeding entirely on hisown, he investigated the latest developments inmathematics and the new natural philosophy thattreated nature as a complicated machine.
Almostimmediately, still under the age of 25, he madefundamental discoveries that were instrumental inhis career science. The Fluxional Method,Newton’s first achievement was in mathematics.He generalized the methods that were being usedto draw tangents to curves and to calculate thearea swept by curves. He recognized that the twoprocedures were inverse operations. By joiningthem in what he called the fluxional method,Newton developed in 1666 a kind of mathematicsthat is known as calculus. Calculus was a new andpowerful method that carried modern mathematicsabove the level of Greek geometry. Optics wasanother area of Newton’s early interests. In tryingto explain how colors occur, he arrived at the ideathat sunlight is a heterogeneous blend of differentcolors of which represents a different color.
Andthat reflections, and refraction’s cause colors toappear by separating the blend into itscomponents. Newton demonstrated his theory ofcolors by passing a beam of sunlight through atype of prism, which split the beam into separatecolors. In August 1684 Newton was visited byEdmund Halley, the British astronomer andmathematician, who discussed with Newton theproblem of orbital motion. Newton had alsopursued the science of mechanics as anundergraduate, and at that time he had alreadyentertained basic notions about universalgravitation. As result of Halley’s visit, Newtonreturned to these studies. During the next threeyears, Newton established the modern science ofdynamics by formulating his three laws of motion.Newton applied these laws to Kepler’s laws oforbital motion, and derived the law of universalgravitation. Newton is probably best known fordiscovering universal gravitation, which explainsthat all bodies in space and on earth are affectedby the force called gravity.
He published thistheory in his book Philosophiae Naturalis PrincipiaMathematica or Principia as it was called, in 1687.This book marked a turning point in the history ofscience; it also ensured that its author could neverregain his privacy. The Principia’s appearance alsoinvolved Newton in an unpleasant episode with theEnglish philosopher and physicist, Robert Hooke.In 1687 Hooke claimed that Newton had stolenfrom him a central idea of the book: that bodiesattract each other with a force that varies inverselyas the square of their distance. However, mosthistorians do not accept Hooke’s charge ofplagiarism. The following four years were filledwith intense activity for Newton. With the successof the Principia, he tried to put all his earlierachievements into a final written form. In thesummer of 1693 Newton showed symptoms of asevere emotional disorder.
Although he regainedhis health, his creative period had come to an end.Sir Isaac Newton’s great discoveries left us with aunified system of laws, that could be applied to anenormous range of physical phenomena. Theseapplications let Newton predict precisely themotion of the stars, and the planets around thesun. Newton’s book the Principia is stillrecognized as the greatest scientific book everwritten. And no, an apple never hit him on thehead.