Isaac Newton: Biography And Contributions

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was an English physicist and mathematician, author of the book Principia , considered the most important scientific work in history. His contributions led the world to a scientific revolution like few in the history of humanity. 

His most recognized contribution is his law of universal gravitation, with which he explained the motion of the planets. However, his studies were numerous. Among them, in 1668 he invented a telescope (Newtonian telescope), which allowed him to study outer space and demonstrate his theory of color and light.

Isaac Newton made great contributions to the world of science and society.

He studied why planes orbit and came to the conclusion that an object does not move unless force is applied to it. This led him to answer several scientific questions, for example why the Moon orbits the Earth.

These discoveries and many others formed the basis of physics as we know it today. However, in popular culture, Newton is perhaps best known for the famous anecdote of the apple that fell from a tree and revealed the Theory of Gravity to him.

Historians say there is probably some truth to that myth, but Newton had already spent countless hours of study and thought prior to that alleged fruit incident at Cambridge University.

Biography

Birth

Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642 – according to the Julian calendar – in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England. NIt came prematurely and her mother Hannah Ayscough said it could have fit in a cup. Her father, also named Isaac Newton, had died three months earlier.

When Isaac Jr. was three years old, his mother remarried and went to live with her new husband, Barnabas Smith, leaving him in the care of her maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough.

Young Isaac rejected his stepfather and maintained a certain enmity towards his mother for marrying him, as this phrase reveals in a list of sins committed up to the age of 19: “Threatening my father and mother with burning them with the house. »

Early life

From the age of twelve to seventeen, Newton was educated at the King’s School, Grantham, which taught Latin and Greek, where he probably learned mathematics.

He was taken out of school and in October 1659 he was taken to Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, the village where his second-widowed mother tried to get him to become a farmer but Newton hated farming.

Henry Stokes, a teacher at the King’s School, persuaded his mother to send him to school so that he could complete his education.

In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, on the recommendation of his uncle, Rev William Ayscough, who had studied there. By the time Newton arrived in Cambridge, the 17th century Scientific Revolution was already in full force.

The heliocentric view of the universe, theorized by astronomers Nicolás Copernicus and Johannes Kepler, and later refined by Galileo Galilei, was well known in most European academic circles.

At that time, the teachings were based on Aristotle, who Newton supplemented with modern philosophers such as Descartes and astronomers such as Galileo and Thomas Street, through whom he learned the work of Kepler.

During his first three years at Cambridge, Newton was taught the standard curriculum, but was fascinated with more advanced science. All his free time was spent reading modern philosophers.

Shortly after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in August 1665, the university closed for two years as a precaution against the Great Plague of London.

First contributions

In the next 18 months he made a series of original contributions to science. In mathematics, Newton conceived his “method of fluxions” (infinitesimal calculus), laid the foundations for his theory of light and color, and gained a significant understanding of the problem of planetary motion, ideas that eventually led to the publication of his Principia (1687).

Although he had not been a distinguished student at Cambridge, Newton’s private studies at home for the next two years involved the development of his theories on calculus, optics, and the law of gravitation.

Principle 

On July 5, 1687, Newton’s “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” was published for the first time, known simply as Principia, book that was fundamental for the emergence of the Industrial Revolution .

It is considered not only as Newton’s most important work, but also as the foundational work for all modern science.

Return to Cambridge

In April 1667, Newton returned to Cambridge and was elected a  fellow  of Trinity College. In 1669, his mentor, Isaac Barrow, resigned his Lucasian Chair of mathematics, a position in which Newton would succeed him until 1696.

This appointment offered Newton the opportunity to organize the results of his optical research and in 1672, shortly after his inclusion in the Royal Society, he published his first public document, a brilliant but no less controversial study on the nature of color.

Death

At 80 years old, Newton was experiencing digestion problems and had to drastically change his diet.

In March 1727, he experienced severe pain in his abdomen and fainted, never regaining consciousness. He died the next day, March 31, 1727, at the age of 84.

Main contributions

Isaac Newton quotes

Newton’s three laws that laid the foundations of classical mechanics

Newton developed the three laws of motion: inertia, F = ma, and action-reaction.

All three appear in his work Principia and describe the relationship between a body and the forces that act on it. That is, when these forces act on a body and produce movement.

These laws laid the foundations for classical mechanics and are fundamental to study in both mathematics and physics.

Universal gravitation law

In Principia , Newton also formulated the law of universal gravitation. This law states that each mass attracts other masses by a so-called “gravity” and is formulated as follows:

Newton used this formula to explain the trajectories of comets, tides, the equinoxes, and other astrophysical phenomena.

It also completely eliminated the heliocentric model that held that the sun was at the center of the Universe.

Newton’s law of universal gravitation was replaced by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but it is still used as an excellent approximation to the effects of gravity.

Isaac Newton invented calculus

Newton also created calculus as a response to the shortcomings in mathematics of the time in which he lived.

At first he called it fluxions, and it helped him solve complex problems about orbits, curves, and other issues that classical geometry could not solve.

Calculation is extremely useful for this, as it produces information about things that are continually changing, for example the speed of a falling object.

The true form of the Earth

The English physicist also predicted that the Earth was shaped like a sphere that experienced flattening at the poles. This theory, as is known, was later verified by different measurements.

¿Why is it so important? Because Newton discovered that the Earth is not perfectly round. Because of this, the distance from the center of the Earth to sea level is approximately 21 kilometers greater at the equator than at the poles.

Invented the first reflecting telescope

In 1668, Newton invented the first reflecting telescope, which is now known as the Newtonian telescope.

Until then, telescopes were big and cumbersome, but Newton’s genius used mirrors instead of lenses. Mirrors are more powerful instruments and ten times smaller than a traditional telescope.

Revolutionized the world of optics

In the late 1660s and early 1670s, Newton determined that white light was a mixture of colors that can be separated with a prism.

He also showed that the multicolored spectrum produced by a prism can be recomposed in white light with a lens and a second prism.

In this way, Newton was able to counter those who believed that light was simple and homogeneous. From then on, the heterogeneity of light became the basis of physical optics.

Other great contributions

In addition to all this, Newton also formulated an empirical law on cooling, studied the speed of sound and introduced the notion of “Newtonian fluid”.

Beyond his work in mathematics, optics, and physics, he also spent a significant amount of time studying biblical chronology and alchemy, but most of his work in these areas remained unpublished until long after his death.

He was the second scientist to be a gentleman

In 1696, Newton was appointed Guardian of the Royal Mint. He also served as a Member of the Parliament of England in 1689-1690 and 1701-1702. He was elected president of the Royal Society in 1703.

As head of the Royal Mint, Newton used his power to punish counterfeiters and in 1717, with the ‘Queen Anne Act’, he moved sterling from the silver standard to the gold standard.

In 1705, Newton was knighted by Queen Anne. Thus, Sir Isaac Newton was the second scientist to be knighted, after Sir Francis Bacon.

His inspiration to other great scientists

Newton was a scientist who dedicated his life to science and research. His discoveries and effort were admired by other great later scientists, such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Galileo Galilei, Newton, Einstein and Hawking are possibly the three most outstanding scientists in history and the inspiration of many others not so well known but who have striven and given their lives for science.

References

  1. What are the contributions of Isaac Newton? (sf). Reference. Recovered from reference.com.
  2. Steve Connor. The core of truth behind Sir Isaac Newton’s apple (2010). The Independent. independent.co.uk.
  3. What are the contributions of Isaac Newton? (sf). Reference. Recovered from reference.com.
  4. Anirudh. 10 MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF ISAAC NEWTON (2016). learnodo-newtonic.com.
  5. Matt Williams. WHAT DID ISAAC NEWTON DISCOVER? (2016). Universe Today. universetoday.com.
  6. Jacob Silverman. How Isaac Newton Worked (sf) science.howstuffworks.com.
  7. Charles Q. Choi. Strange but True: Earth Is Not Round (2007). Scientific American. scientificamerican.com.
  8. Matt Williams. WHAT DID ISAAC NEWTON DISCOVER? (2016). Universe Today. universetoday.com.
  9. Anirudh. 10 MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF ISAAC NEWTON (2016). learnodo-newtonic.com.

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