• Dec 25, 1642
    (b.) -
    Mar 20, 1727
    (d.)

Bio/Description

An English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, His monograph Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, lays the foundations for most of classical mechanics. In this work, he described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. he showed that the motions of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws, by demonstrating the consistency between Kepler's laws of planetary motion and his theory of gravitation, thus removing the last doubts about heliocentrism and advancing the Scientific Revolution. The Principia is generally considered to be one of the most important scientific books ever written. He 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 that form the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound. In mathematics, he shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of differential and integral calculus. He also demonstrated the generalised binomial theorem, developed Newton's method for approximating the roots of a function, and contributed to the study of power series. He was born in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a hamlet in the county of Lincolnshire, England, and from the age of about twelve until he was seventeen, was educated at The King's School, Grantham. He was removed from school, and by October 1659, he was to be found at Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, where his mother, widowed by now for the second time, attempted to make a farmer of him. Henry Stokes, master at the King's School, persuaded his mother to send him back to school so that he might complete his education where he became the top-ranked student. The Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen considers it "fairly certain" that he suffered from Asperger syndrome. In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge as a sizar – a sort of work-study role. At that time, the college's teachings were based on those of Aristotle, but he preferred to read the more advanced ideas of modern philosophers, such as Descartes, and of astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. In 1665, he discovered the generalised binomial theorem and began to develop a mathematical theory that later became infinitesimal calculus. Soon after he had obtained his degree in August 1665, the university temporarily closed as a precaution against the Great Plague. Although he had been undistinguished as a Cambridge student, His private studies at his home in Woolsthorpe over the subsequent two years saw the development of his theories on calculus, optics and the law of gravitation. In 1667, he returned to Cambridge as a fellow of Trinity. Fellows were required to become ordained priests, something he desired to avoid due to his unorthodox views. Luckily for him, there was no specific deadline for ordination and it could be postponed indefinitely. The problem became more severe later when he was elected for the prestigious Lucasian Chair in 1669. For such a significant appointment, ordaining normally could not be dodged. Nevertheless, he managed to avoid it by means of a special permission from Charles II. His work has been said "to distinctly advance every branch of mathematics then studied". His work on the subject usually referred to as fluxions or calculus is seen, for example, in a manuscript of October 1666, now published among his mathematical papers. A related subject was infinite series. His manuscript "De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas" ("On analysis by equations infinite in number of terms") was sent by Isaac Barrow to John Collins in June 1669: in August 1669 Barrow identified its author to Collins as "Mr Newton, a fellow of our College, and very young..., but of an extraordinary genius and proficiency in these things". He later became involved in a dispute with Leibniz over priority in the development of infinitesimal calculus. Most modern historians believe that he and Leibniz developed infinitesimal calculus independently, although with very different notations. Occasionally it has been suggested that he published almost nothing about it until 1693, and did not give a full account until 1704, while Leibniz began publishing a full account of his methods in 1684. Such a suggestion, however, fails to notice the content of calculus which critics of his time and modern times have pointed out in Book 1 of his "Principia" itself (published 1687) and in its forerunner manuscripts, such as De motu corporum in gyrum ("On the motion of bodies in orbit"), of 1684. His work extensively uses an infinitesimal calculus in geometric form, based on limiting values of the ratios of vanishing small quantities: in the Principia itself he gave demonstration of this under the name of 'the method of first and last ratios' and explained why he put his expositions in this form, remarking also that 'hereby the same thing is performed as by the method of indivisibles'. He is generally credited with the generalised binomial theorem, valid for any exponent. He discovered Newton's identities, Newton's method, classified cubic plane curves (polynomials of degree three in two variables), made substantial contributions to the theory of finite differences, and was the first to use fractional indices and to employ coordinate geometry to derive solutions to Diophantine equations. He approximated partial sums of the harmonic series by logarithms (a precursor to Euler's summation formula), and was the first to use power series with confidence and to revert power series. In an article entitled "Newton, prisms, and the 'opticks' of tunable lasers it is indicated that in his book Opticks he was the first to show a diagram using a prism as a beam expander. In the same book he describes, via diagrams, the use of multiple-prism arrays. Some 278 years after his discussion, multiple-prism expanders became central to the development of narrow-linewidth tunable lasers. Also, the use of these prismatic beam expanders led to the multiple-prism dispersion theory. In his work, The Principia published on 5 July 1687, he stated the three universal laws of motion that enabled many of the advances of the Industrial Revolution which soon followed and were not to be improved upon for more than 200 years, and are still the underpinnings of the non-relativistic technologies of the modern world. He used the Latin word gravitas (weight) for the effect that would become known as gravity, and defined the law of universal gravitation. In the same work, he presented a calculus-like method of geometrical analysis by 'first and last ratios', gave the first analytical determination (based on Boyle's law) of the speed of sound in air, inferred the oblateness of the spheroidal figure of the Earth, accounted for the precession of the equinoxes as a result of the Moon's gravitational attraction on the Earth's oblateness, initiated the gravitational study of the irregularities in the motion of the moon, provided a theory for the determination of the orbits of comets, and much more.
  • Date of Birth:

    Dec 25, 1642
  • Date of Death:

    Mar 20, 1727
  • Gender:

    Male
  • Noted For:

    He stated the three universal laws of motion that enabled many of the advances of the Industrial Revolution which are still the underpinnings of the non-relativistic technologies of the modern world and he used the Latin word gravitas (weight) for the effect that would become known as gravity, and defined the law of universal gravitation
  • Category of Achievement:

  • More Info: