Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

Born: 1642. Died: 1727.


- Invention of differential and integral calculus.

- Clarification of concepts of inertia and force.

- Formulation of three laws of motion, making possible the science of rational mechanics.

- Proof of the composite nature of white light.

- Construction of the first refleecting telescope.

- Insistence on the experimental basis of true science.


Sir Isaac Newton was born in the village of Woolsthorpe, England in the year that Galileo died.

His early studies were inspired by reading Euclid's Elements. He studied physics at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1664 he had his annus mirabilis (year of disasters and marvels) when the bubonic plague drove him home and he made his most significant discoveries.

In 1687, Isaac Newton marked the beginning of the modern mathematical approach to science by publishing the Philosphiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy). This introduced Newton's universal law of Gravitation, laws of Motion, and the calculus.

By the time of Newton, most astronomers had accepted Giordano Bruno's idea that the stars were like the sun, but much further away. Newton produced an argument for the possibility of an *infinite universe. He asked himself why the stars did not fall together due to their mutual gravitational attraction. He decided that if there were an infinite number of stars, distributed uniformly over infinite space, the attractions might cancel out.

Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time says, "This argument is an instance of the pitfalls that you can encounter in talking about infinity... We now know it is impossible to have an infinite static model of the universe in which gravity is always attractive."

Another argument against an infinite static universe is Olber's paradox.

Major Works of Isaac Newton

- An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, 1754
- Arithmetica Universalis, Volumes 1 and 2, 1707
- De Motu Corporum in Gyrum (On the Motion of Revolving Bodies), 1684
- Method of Fluxions, 1671
- Observations on Daniel and The Apocalypse of St. John, 1733
- Of Natures Obvious Laws & Processes in Vegetation, unpublished, c. 1671–75
- Opticks, 1704, 1717, 1721, 1730
- Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 1687, 1713, 1726
- Reports as Master of the Mint, 1701–25
- The System of the World, Optical Lectures (The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms, Amended) and De mundi systemate, published posthumously in 1728

Quotes from Isaac Newton

- "Everybody continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it." (from "Principia Mathematics", 1687)

- "To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction." (from "Principia Mathematics", 1687)

- "If I have seen further (than you and Descartes), it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants." (from a letter to Robert Hooke, 1675)

- "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." (from "Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton" edited by David Brewster)

- "Anonymous: How did you discover the law of gravitation?
Newton: By thinking about it all the time." (from "Great Lives, Great Deeds" by Ernest Dimnet)


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