Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)

Sir Isaac Newton PRS MP (/ˈnjtən/;[8] 25 December 1642 – 20 March 1727[1]) was an English physicist and mathematician who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica ("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"), first published in 1687, laid the foundations for classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics and shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the invention of infinitesimal calculus.

Newton's Principia formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, which dominated scientists' view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. It also demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies could be described by the same principles. By deriving Kepler's laws of planetary motion from his mathematical description of gravity, and then using the same principles to account for the trajectories of comets and other phenomena, Newton removed the last doubts about the validity of the heliocentric model of the cosmos.

Newton 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 of the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling, studied the speed of sound, and introduced the notion of a Newtonian fluid. In addition to his work on calculus, as a mathematician Newton contributed to the study of power series, generalised the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents, and developed Newton's method for approximating the roots of a function.

Newton was a fellow of Trinity College and the second Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He was a devout but unorthodox Christian and, unusually for a member of the Cambridge faculty of the day, he refused to take holy orders in the Church of England, perhaps because he privately rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. In addition to his work on the mathematical sciences, Newton also dedicated much of his time to the study of biblical chronology and alchemy, but most of his work in those areas remained unpublished until long after his death. In his later life, Newton became president of the Royal Society. He also served the British government as Warden and Master of the Royal Mint.


Ron Flick's picture

Isaac Newton accomplished much of the above before his 23rd birthday it should be noted.  This fellow was gifted beyond his years early on. He is credited with the Integration of the Physical Sciences a very major achievement. Prior to his publication of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica of which only four hundred copies were printed - in Latin, most of what was done mechanically on the planet 5000 years ago was still done in the same manner during Newton's life time the same way. To get from Point A to Point B 5000 years ago required walking, riding a horse or sailing, the same was true in his day. To warm a home require the burning of wood or oil 5000 years ago and the same in Newton's day. To communicate over long distances word of mouth passed on to another, letter writing or smoke signals or reflecive shinny objects were used 5000 years ago, and the same in Newton's day.   The only thing singular in nature that changed all of this and why we have the abundance of everything we have all around us today, was because of the printing of that book and this man's achievement in written form.  Latin was the language of the church of Europe in his day. Like Galileo and Giordana Bruno, before him, the latter for good reason, who feared the church keen on eliminating usurpers of their authority by toasting them alive or shorting them by a head, Newton chose to print his work in Latin, so it would not be read widely until long after he died.

It was Emilie Du Chatelet (1706–1749), the brilliant mathematician, and Voltair's mistress that successfully translated Newton's book in to French, the common language of Europe in her day that opened up wide readership intof Newton's work; which utimately was responsible for producing the Industrial Revolution which led to the American Revolution. From 1745 until her death in 1749, Chatalet worked on a translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia

Another obscure and little known fact that converted the practice of astrology to astronomy was made possibly by Newton's friend Edmond Halley an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist in his own rite. It was because of Halley and their friendship that Newton finally gave in to publishing his work at age 45. The year was 1687.  Life expectancy in Newton's time placed 45 as beyond what most of his peers lived. Halley feared that Newton would go to his grave and all of his great achievements [intellectual property] would be lost.

Making use of Newton's work on planetary orbits, Halley published his work "Synopsis Astronomia Cometicae" in 1705 wherein he calculated the correct orbit of some 24 comets.  His research showed, going back several hundred years, that one such comet had an eliptical orbit of 75 to 76 years. He calculated in his book that it would return again in 1758, sixteen years after his death and thirty-one years after Newton's death.  His calculations were dead on correct, and that single calculation regarding this brilliant light in the sky that remained bright for many days and viewed by millions all over the world, brought the study of physics to new levels of respect the world over. Astrology passed into history giving way to exact science and the Scientific Method of Isaac Newton and Newtonian physics.  Today we know of this man's work because of Halley Comet; the man who called the orbit correctly.

Newton's importance like Thomas Paine's can not be over stated. Without much effort it can be demonstrated that had Newton not lived and done what he did, there is little question that the majority of people living today, would not exist.  Thomas Paine used Newtonian Physics to design the first Iron Bridge and it was this iron bridge design that inspired Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the designer of our Statue of Liberty's skeletal structure, to come up with his design for the world famed Paris landmark, the Eiffel Tower. 

An important biography on Isaac Newton is Andrade' Sir Isaac Newton....well worth the time it takes to locate a copy.