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Isaac Newton

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Isaac Newton
Born 25th December, 1642 Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire
Died 1727
Religious affiliation Anglican
Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics
From 1669
To 1702
Succeeded Isaac Barrow
Preceded William Whiston

Isaac Newton (January 4, 1643 – March 31, 1627) was an English physicist, mathematician and philosopher. He is the author of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, in which he described the laws of universal gravitation and established the basis of classical mechanics, with the laws that now bear his name. Among his other scientific discoveries are his works on optics and the nature of light, and the development of infinitesimal calculus.

Newton was among the first to propose that the natural laws that govern the motion of objects in the Earth are the same as the laws that govern the motion of celestial bodies. He is widely considered one of the greatest physicists of all time. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, London.




His main contribution to mathematics was the development of infinitesimal calculus. Newton at first developed his calculus ideas from analytic geometry, previously studied by Rene Descartes. He interpreted derivatives as the slope of the tangent curve, and integrals as the area under a curve, when the curve is expressed as a function and plotted in a coordinate system. Eventually he explored some of his ideas in a purely analytical manner, that is, without the need of giving them a geometrical interpretation.

Besides calculus, Newton also found the binomial theorem, which allows one to calculate the nth of a binomial: (a + b)^n. He also developed Newton – Cotes formulas, one of the first methods of numerical integration.


Among his discoveries in optics is that white light is formed by a spectrum of colors: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue and violet, which could be separated with a prism. He concluded that the telescopes of that time, which amplified the image using lenses, would suffer from chromatic aberration, that is, the dispersion of light into its different colors as it crossed the lenses. To avoid the problem, he constructed a telescope that used mirrors instead of lenses. He proposed that light is composed of particles, an idea that was criticized by some of his colleagues like Huygens and Hooke, who claimed that light was composed of waves. Later experiments supported the wave theory of the light, although in the twentieth century, with the advent of quantum mechanics, light is considered to be both a wave and particles.


The gravitation law of Newton states that objects exert a force that is proportional to their mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the body. This is the force of gravity. The force of gravity felt by an object due to other objects is also proportional to its mass. Newton proved that the empirical Kepler laws could be derived from his gravitational force law. Probably Newton's greatest insight is that gravity is a universal force: it is a force between any two objects, not just between the Earth and the Sun. It is the same force that keeps planets in their orbits and make apples fall to the ground.


See also: Newton Laws

Newton also postulated his three laws of motion. His first law states that an object that is not subject to external forces will keep its state of rest or rectilinear constant motion. This idea, which was previously stated by Galileo, contradicts the Aristotelian notion that objects always come to rest, because rest is the natural state of objects. Newton's second law states that a force over an object causes it to accelerate, the acceleration being directly proportional to the force, and inversely proportional to the object's mass. Newton's third law states that when object A exerts a force on object B, object also B exerts a force on object A. This reaction force is of the same magnitude and opposite direction with respect to the original force.


Newton was a profoundly religious man, holding a monotheistic belief in the Abrahamic god though denying the divinity of Jesus Christ and therefore rejecting the Holy Trinity. He wrote more about theology than he wrote about physics or mathematics, and indeed believed himself to have been specially selected by God to understand the Bible for mankind through his particular means of literal interpretation as a kind of prophetic seer. As an avid occultist, Newton wrote extensively on divining prophecy from existing scripture, alchemy, Atlantis, the Messianic end-times, and significance of mathematical proportions in the construction of King Solomon's Temple.

Relationship with other scientists

Newton did not have a good relationship with his colleages. He had a particularly bad relationship with Robert Hooke, whose research was also in the fields of mechanics and optics. There is a hypothesis that when Newton became president of the Royal Society, he tried to erase not only all registries of any contribution that Hooke made to science, but his existence itself. There are no portraits of Hooke today, most of his works are lost and it is unknown where he is buried. Newton also had a conflict with Gottfried Leibnitz, both claiming primacy in the development of calculus.

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