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Isaac Newton

Updated on October 22, 2011

Early Life And Education

According to the Gregorian calendar, Newton was born on January 4 that year in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire.

Named Isaac after his late father, who had died some three months before his birth, Newton came from a family of farmers. His father, although he was wealthy because of the land and animals he owned, was totally illiterate. He couldn't even sign his own name. When he was just two years old, Newton's mother Hannah Ayscough remarried leaving him in the care of his grandmother. Treated as an unwanted orphan child, Newton had a sad childhood.

At the age of five, Newton was sent to the Free Grammar School in Grantham where he showed no aptitude for studies. Some years later when his stepfather died too, his mother decided to take him out of school so that he could help her manage her estate. But the boy had no talent or interest in this field either. Since one of his uncles, William Ayscough, wanted to see him educated, he persuaded his mother to send the boy back to school. So at age 17 in 1660, Isaac returned to the Free Grammar School in Grantham. Since the school was a bit far away from his home, he lodged in with Stokes, the school's headmaster. The man must have been a good influence on Newton as this time around he actually enjoyed studying.

When he had finished formal schooling, the headmaster persuaded his mother to let him enter university. Stokes was an able man who also became the boy's tutor preparing him for the university entrance exam. That is how on June 5, 1661, Isaac Newton entered Trinity College in Cambridge. Older in age than the other students there, Newton entered university as a sizar. A sizar at Cambridge was a student who received an allowance toward college expenses in exchange for acting as a servant to other students, which was ironic because Newton's mother was financially well off.

Newton's Works

Initially Newton aimed for a law degree at Cambridge. His other subjects included philosophy, which allowed him to study the works of intellectual greats of the likes of Aristotle, Descartes, Gassendi, Hobbes, and Boyle. He also found the mechanics of the Copernican astronomy of Galileo and Kepler's optics interesting. By 1664, he recorded his thoughts in a book which he entitled Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae (Certain Philosophical Questions).

Also around this time, Newton bought for himself an astrology book at a fair in Cambridge and found that he could not understand the mathematics in it. Attempting to read a trigonometry book, he found that he lacked knowledge of geometry and so decided to study that as well. Pretty soon he found himself studying all branches of mathematics. The April of 1665 saw Newton receive his bachelor's degree but due to the spreading of plague in the summer that same year, the University had to be suddenly closed.

With time on his hands Newton began revolutionary advances in mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy. In the following 18 months, he made a series of original contributions to science. After innumerous experiments he reached the conclusion that white light was not a basic single entity as believed earlier. When he passed a thin beam of sunlight through a glass prism, Newton noted the spectrum of colours. He realized that the white light was really a mixture of many different types of rays which are refracted at slightly different angles, and that each different type of ray produces a different spectral colour. Led by this reasoning Newton reached the conclusion that telescopes using refracting lenses would always suffer chromatic aberration. He therefore proposed and constructed a reflecting telescope.

Still Newton's greatest achievement was his work in physics. Lazing under an apple tree, the scientist was hit by an apple on his head, which got him thinking as to why the fruit had come down instead of going up? There had to be some kind of a force pulling the apple downwards. The scientist called this force gravity. He believed that the Earth's gravity extended to the moon. By 1966, Newton had formulated early versions of his three laws of motion.

When university reopened in 1667, Newton put himself forward as a candidate for a minor fellowship at Trinity College. One year later, after earning a Master's degree, he was elected to a major fellowship in July 1668, which allowed him to dine at the Fellows' Table. In 1669, before he had reached his 27th birthday, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics there. The duties of this appointment offered Newton the opportunity to organize the results of his earlier optical researches. In 1671, he donated an improved version of his telescope to the Royal Society in London.

Soon after, in 1672, he was elected a fellow of the society. Later that year Newton published his first scientific paper, which dealt with his new theory of light and colour. The paper was well received by the entire world with the exception of two leading natural philosophers of that time, Robert Hooke and Christian Huygens, who rejected the theory outright. Newton, who did not take well to rejection, suffered a serious emotional breakdown. He withdrew from public scientific debates for about a decade devoting his time to chemical and alchemical research.

But then Hooke wasn't that big a hurdle. Ironically, it was he who helped give life to Newton's theories on gravitation. In November 1679, Hooke initiated an exchange of letters that bore on the question of planetary motion. The correspondence made Newton think more deeply on the subject.

His Most Famous Book

In 1684, a young astronomer by the name of Edmund Halley asked Newton to write an extended paper on his laws of motion and the problems of orbital mechanics. After 18 months of hard work, in 1687, Newton published his most famous work, the greatest scientific book ever written, Principia.

With the publication of Principia, Newton got recognition as the leading natural philosopher of his time. But just six years later, he suffered a nervous breakdown and retired from scientific research. Shortly after his recovery, Newton sought a new position in London. In 1696, with the help of Charles Montague, a fellow of Trinity and later earl of Halifax, Newton was appointed Warden and then Master of the Mint.

During his London years Newton enjoyed power and worldly success. His position at the Mint assured a comfortable social and economic status, and he was an active and able administrator. In 1703, after Hooke's death, he was elected president of the Royal Society and was reelected each year till his death. In 1704 he published his second major work, the Opticks, based largely on optical research which he had completed decades ago. In 1708, knighted by Queen Anne, he became the first scientist to be honoured for his work.

Sir Isaac died in London on March 20, 1727. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Today Sir Isaac Newton is regarded as the most original and influential theorist in the history of science. Almost three centuries after his death, his work continues to be as useful as it was in his day. The man was a real genius.

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    • profile image

      travtrav 

      6 years ago

      ISAAC IS A BOSS!

    • profile image

      srikanth 

      6 years ago

      those who are thinkink about air(gas=random nature of mollecules) water(liquid=loosely packed molecules)you must go to chemistry,then u can easily understand them..

    • profile image

      Annymous 

      6 years ago

      I can't find what he built that was so famous

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks Hassam. I love Newton, even if I'm more into philosophy - nice hub!

    • masaa profile image

      masaa 

      8 years ago from Kenya

      let me read this and get back to you

    • profile image

      meme 

      8 years ago

      this has help a lot thx you

    • profile image

      pieguy 

      9 years ago

      awsome!

    • profile image

      Sammy pchouhid 

      9 years ago

      Yes, you are right that water gets energy from the sun and starts to evaporate. However, the water in the ocean is still evaporated even at night after the sunset. Or in another words, water in the ocean is still evaporated at the absence of sunlight.

      The heavy cloud at night is certainly heavier than air and yet it won't rain. It does not receive any energy from sun and yet it stays in the sky for long period.

      I apologize of my ignorance and would be seeking your intellectual advice on how this event occurs then.

    • hassam profile imageAUTHOR

      hassam 

      9 years ago from Pakistan

      I don't know why you are confusing science with religion. Nature runs everything on certain principles that we should know about. Gravity is one such principle. Now even a 1st grade kid knows this that if there was no gravity on Earth, we won't be able to walk.

      You give me examples of water droplets but just think for a moment how rocket propels? The gases burn,produce energy, it allows it to propel into the sky, moving against gravity. Water gets this energy from the sun and starts to evaporate.

      If you are so concerned about the water droplets then go study Fluid Dynamics. I am not going to explain you everything here!

    • hassam profile imageAUTHOR

      hassam 

      9 years ago from Pakistan

      I don't know why you are confusing science with religion. Nature runs everything on certain principles that we should know about. Gravity is one such principle. Now even a 1st grade kid knows this that if there was no gravity on Earth, we won't be able to walk.

      You give me examples of water droplets but just think for a moment how rocket propels? The gases burn,produce energy, it allows it to propel into the sky, moving against gravity. Water gets this energy from the sun and starts to evaporate.

      If you are so concerned about the water droplets then go study Fluid Dynamics. I am not going to explain you everything here!

    • profile image

      Sammy pcbouhid 

      9 years ago

      When the cloud turns grey and it starts to rain, it sometimes takes at least more than half an hour to stop. As the rain will take at least an hour to stop, it is easily to arrive the conclusion that much water was hanging in the air. One might be curious with the water droplets in the sky that sometimes it does not rain despite the cloud is dark. From the observation from the sky, one could arrive at the conclusion that water could remain in the sky despite it might be heavier than air and this certainly acts against gravity.

      From this observation, it would easily arrive with the conclusion that something is controlling the universe and that what Muslims call it, Allah, what Christians and other religions call it, God.

    • profile image

      Sammy pcbouhid 

      9 years ago

      Imaging the big ocean. No matter how heavy the accumulated water is and amazingly it will turn up to be small little drop of water lighter than air and float in the sky and stay there no enough to rain. This cannot be explained easily by means of science. It is the work of nature.

      For instance, if, one day, not even a single water droplet starts to go up to the sky, there would not be any rain for us and we would not be survived without water.

      Compare one gram of air to be placed in the plastic bag and one gram of water droplet and suggest which is heaviest. Certainly both have the same weight. In science, using our logical analysis, it seems to be acceptable that water droplet is lighter than air so that it would float in the air. However, when you compare one gram of water to one gram of air, you will come to the conclusion that there is no different.

      Let's compare one gram of hydrogen and one gram of oxygen. Both have the same weight. When you tight one gram of hydrogen that is filled in the balloon to one gram of oxygen in the balloon, will both the balloons float.

    • profile image

      SamSam 

      9 years ago

      There is a high density of salt in the dead sea. No matter how heavy are you, you will definitely float in the dead sea and that goes against gravity.

    • hassam profile imageAUTHOR

      hassam 

      9 years ago from Pakistan

      Sammy, you have collected a good bunch of examples. But I think you need to get your basic concepts physics in the right direction. Gravity does seem to act on every body which exists on our earth and this is actually the weight of the body which depend on its mass. So greater the mass the more the force of gravity.

      In case of water droplets or air balloons which are lighter than the air, they don't experience much force on them so that they would move towards the Earth. There are actually other forces also that allow them to move upwards. Smililar is the case with a body floating on water.

      Now there is actually some deficiency in Newton's theory which was corrected some by Einstien. Still you cannot deny the basic principles of physics because they are correct if every thing was considered ideal.

    • profile image

      SAMMY PCHOUHID 

      9 years ago

      GRAVITY SEEMS NOT TO BE APPLICABLE IN WATER:

      1) BUBBLES TEND TO FLOAT IN THE WATER AND THEN VANISH.

      2) THE DENSITY OF WATER CAUSES SUBSTANCE NOT TO SINK: OBJECTS FLOAT IN THE DEAD SEA DUE TO THE HIGH DENSITY OF SALT.

      FROM THE ABOVE EXAMPLES, IT SHOWS THAT WHAT GOES UP IT MIGHT NOT COME DOWN. HOWEVER, IN THE THEORY OF GRAVITY, WHAT GOES UP, IT WILL COME DOWN.

    • profile image

      SAMMY PCHOUHID 

      9 years ago

      WHEN YOU BOIL WATER, MUCH WATER IS EVAPORATED UNDOUBTEDLY. HOWEVER, THE WATER GOES UP DIRECTLY TO THE SKY TO FORM CLOUD AND IT DOES NOT DROP IMMEDIATELY. IMAGINE MUCH WATER IS EVAPORATED WHEN WATER IS BOILING, THE ACCUMULATED WEIGHT OF WATER IS CERTAINLY HEAVY. THE LONGER TIME THE WATER IS BOILING, THE LESSER WATER IN THE KETTLE. HOWEVER, THE SKY SEEMS NOT TO HAVE RAIN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT. THIS CERTAINLY GOES AGAINST THE THEORY OF GRAVITY FORCE.

      ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU HOLD A PLATE NEAR THE KETTLE WHEN WATER IS BOILING, WATER IMMEDIATELY DRIPS FROM THE PLATE.

    • profile image

      SAMMY PCHOUHID 

      9 years ago

      BALOONS THAT ARE FILLED WITH HYDROGEN GAS TENDS TO FLOAT IN THE ABOVE INSTEAD OF DROPPING AND IT ACTS AGAINST THE THEORY OF GRAVITY TOO.

    • profile image

      SAMMY PCHOUHID 

      9 years ago

      ISAAC NEWTON IS CERTAINLY GREATLY RESPECTED BY ALL THE PEOPLE. HOWEVER, HIS THEORY HAS A LITTLE DEFICIENCY AND THAT IS WE COULD NOT SENSE AND SEE GRAVITY FORCE. WE KNOW THE EXISTENCE THROUGH EXPERIMENT AND HIS THEORY.

      WATER AND LIQUID TEND TO ACT AGAINST GRAVITY SINCE IT ALWAYS EVAPORATES AND IT STAYS IN HE SKY FOR LONG PERIOD UNTIL IT RAINS.

      FROM THE ABOVE EXPLANATIONS, IT SEEMS THAT GRAVITY MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO ESTABLISHED FOR CERTAIN ITEM/OBJECT.

    • profile image

      SAMMY PCHOUHID 

      9 years ago

      Isaac Newton discovered the existence of Gravity as a result of an apple dropped on his head. For instance, if the thing that dropped on his head is an atomic bomb or a big water melon, there might not be any write-up about gravity since he would have gone to another world.

      Sadly to say, we have more subjects to study in science as he discovered the gravity at work in this planet as well as in this universe.

    • profile image

      ...... 

      9 years ago

      hey did isaac newton create any subjects in school because im doning a project and i need to no this answer...

    • profile image

      searching for info 

      9 years ago

      This info isn't quite was iwas looking for but still good. it helped me with a assginment .keep posting info.

    • profile image

      issacnewtonfan 

      9 years ago

      this is some great info

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      10 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Thanks for posting this one. It is a pity that Newton and Hooke were so mutually antagonistic, as both made great contributions to Science (though Newton's was unquestionably greater).

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