Sir Isaac Newton Influential Scientist Philosophy
Sir Isaac Newton, the most influential scientist of the world was a respected polymath. He was a Physicist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Natural philosopher, Alchemist and a Theologian. Today's modern, technically advanced era of scientific supremacy could not be possible without his scientific and mechanical contributions. His discoveries in the various fields are a priceless gift to mankind. Sir Isaac Newton was an extraordinary genius, who advanced every branch of Mathematics and Physics. His discoveries and works laid the foundation of modern classical mechanics which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. He certainly is the key person of modern scientific revolution. But as a person, he had shown a very complex character throughout his life.
Whereas at one end, Newton was extremely focused and deeply concentrated at his works and experiments, on the other, he was a very lonely person struggling against his emotionally scattered childhood that was full of resentments. A victim of some unbearable, unpleasant incidents and circumstances he always was on the edge of emotional collapse. Many times he became violent and his unrestrained behaviour with friends and foes were quite complex.
Newton, although an unorthodox Christian, was deeply religious and always feared being accused of refusing holy orders. Newton's journey of life oscillated between the peaks of the realizations of the truth of universe and the crests of some negative feelings like hatred towards women, volatile temper, fear, resentments and many other emotional complexities. The seed of his complex character lies in his lonesome and distraught childhood. It seems that the sorrow and solitude culminated inside the child Newton was transformed into the great affection and inquisition for Mother Nature in due course. Mother Nature also lovingly opened her secrets to her dear child, Newton.
A versatile scientist, a creative genius, a sensitive human being, a strict administrator and a meditative holy person; Newton's journey of life begins with a sad and lonely childhood.A devastated childhood
Isaac Newton was born in Woolsthorpe, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, England in a manor house. According to the old calendar used in those days in England his date of birth was the Christmas Day of 1642. Later, his date of birth was corrected according to the Gregorian calendar as 4th January, 1643. His father, also named as Isaac Newton, was a prosperous illiterate farmer who could not even sign his own name. Three months before Newton was born his father died in October 1642. As a prematurely born baby, Newton was a small child. His mother Hannah Ayscough had mentioned that he could have fit inside a quart mug (â‰ˆ1.1litres). In January 1646, just after Newton's third birthday, his mother remarried Barnabas Smith. He was the Minister of the Church at North Witham, in a nearby village. After this marriage she left child Newton at Woolsthorpe with her mother, Margery Ayscough and started living with her second husband in the nearby village.
The lonely, sad and emotionally shattered child, who had never seen his father, was suddenly parted from his mother too. This bitter fact was just unbearable for him. For him it was a traumatic incident. Gradually he discovered that his mother was not staying too far as the steeple of North Witham's church could be seen very clearly by climbing a tree. This was too agonizing for him. So near she was living but he could not go and stay with her. He was aware of the fact that there was a mysterious stranger also who had 'stolen' his mother away. Emotionally devastated Newton always thought of himself as an orphan. Abandoned with the maternal love and care, he never found emotional support and attachment with his grandparents. He never mentioned his grandfather, James Ayscough in his later life. James too, left nothing to Newton in his will. James had made his will when Newton was 10 years old. Maybe, this was one of the reasons of resentment inculcated inside Newton with respect to his grandfather.
Hanna returned to Woolsthorpe in 1653 when her second husband died in 1653. She was now a very rich widow with three more children. For more than eight years Newton was effectively separated from his mother. All these happenings were so traumatic to him that leads to his pronounced psychotic tendencies. He developed an acute sense of insecurity that rendered him an obsessively anxious person. Suddenly the family scenario for Newton changed thoroughly. Now he had to live in an extended family which consisted of his mother, grandmother, one stepbrother and two step sisters. Up to this time, habituated with his loneliness, 11 year old Newton already had learnt the bitter lesson to insulate himself from the group of people and to be only with himself in his own hidden corners of mind. His brother and sisters were never mentioned by Newton in his later life. It seems he did not have any friendly or formal rapport with his family members. The son, who was abandoned by his mother, possessed a very complex character, unpredictable behavior and temper. He could nurse grudges and to take revenge with those who, in his opinion, had wronged him, he would wait for years if needed.
The young Newton never liked his stepfather. Towards his mother also he maintained some resentment and enmity for remarrying. In a list of sins committed up to the age of 19, he disclosed these all."Threatening my father and mother Smith to burn them and the house over them.""Wishing death and hoping it to some."
Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen considered it fairly certain that Newton had 'Asperger' syndrome. The people who are affected by Asperger syndrome have difficulty in facing social surroundings. They feel comfortable in isolation and aloofness. They have problems with speech and language to a certain extent that also in tern responsible for their isolation. They have above-average intelligence and are capable of excelling in fields like science and computer programming. Their cognitive development and the curiosity about environment are also same as the normal people but they may become obsessed or over-focused on a single point or topic, ignoring all other things. They may became deeply concentrated on that particular subject and usually don't like to talk about anything else.Early schooling
Hannah was determined that in contrast of his father, who was illiterate; Newton should be grown up as a literate person. Though Newton was enrolled in a village school during his mother's absence, he was not a regular student. When Newton was 12 year old, he began attending the Free Grammar School called King's School at Grantham. Although the market town Grantham was only five miles from his home, Newton lodged with William Clarke's family at Grantham. It seems Newton's indifferent behavior with the family members was the reason behind his lodging with William Clarke's family at Grantham.
At King's School, Latin and Greek were the languages of instruction. Bible studies were the important part of the curriculum. The foundations of young Newton's classical education were laid during this period. Newton became familiar with the Hebrew script also. The main focus of the school curriculum was grammar and literature. But students received a limited account of instruction in arithmetic also. It is reported that instead of playing with the other boys after school, "he busied himself in making knickknacks and wood models in many kinds; for which purpose he had got little saws, hatches, hammers and a whole shop of tools, which he would use with great dexterity."
Some of his frequently mentioned mechanical models were his windmill model, Newton's dial (as was popularly known) to know the time, water clock etc. Water clock was constructed from a wooden box. This box was given to him by William Clarke's brother-in-law. It was four feet high. At the top it had a dial with the numbers of the hours. A piece of wood was attached to it to drive this device. According to the rhythmic dripping of water this piece of wood was systemize to alternately rose and fell. Newton kept this device in his room. The Clarkes occasionally used to check this device to know the time.
Newton was equally fascinated by kites and made them in various shapes to determine the design best suited for a sustained flight. With crumpled paper he made lanterns. He used to light them with candles. On dark winter mornings while going to school Newton used to take these lanterns with him. Sometimes at night he tied these lanterns to the tails of his kites. People who saw some burning object passing through the sky mistook them with passing comets and used to become frightened. Young Newton was not just doing anything but he was playing with scientific logics, ideas and mechanism.
An interesting incident took place in September 1658. England witnessed a great storm when the Lord protector Oliver Cromwell died. With this storm a superstition raised that 'the devil riding the whirlwind to claim his lost soul'. But the great storm which swept over England was a rare opportunity for 15 year old Newton to take part into a long jump competition with some of athletic youths. Taking advantage of the gusts of wind and careful timing Newton out leaped other boys, leaving the entire viewer surprised. After many years Newton remarked to a relative about this incident that 'this was one of his first experiments'.
According to Dr. William Stukeley, a friend of Isaac Newton, "smaller and physically weaker than most of his schoolmates, Newton attempted to teach them 'to play philosophically'." As a teenager, Newton had interest in sketching and poetry also but these were passed soon. He had interest in books too. One of the many books to which he became fascinated was 'the Mysteries of Nature and Art' by John Bate. Its third edition was published in 1654, when Newton was 11.
As Newton was so interested in books and mechanics, anyone would have judged him as a bright student, doing well in his studies, but that was not so. He was described as 'idle' and 'inattentive' in his school reports. He was motivated to study in a reaction of one of his classmate who bullied him. It can be said that a desire of revenge was partly responsible for his motivation towards study.
One day in the school, a physical fight took place between Newton and one of his classmate who was physically stronger and better in studies than him. Though Newton was weaker, he fought revengefully and ultimately defeated him. It is reported that this incident proved as a turning point for Newton. He started paying attention to his studies and soon became the top-ranked and a star student of the school. These school years were the happiest in Newton's life, but his mother, Hannah had decided that he must return to Woolsthorpe to begin learning ways of a respected landowner. According to her the eldest son, Newton was the right person and was at the ideal age to learn to manage the estate and other affairs related to it. Hannah was adamant. And thus leaving the school Newton brought back to his home. But soon it became very clear that he was least interested in managing an estate. Dr. William Stukeley recalled, "His chief delight was to sit under a tree, with a book in his hands, or to busy himself with his knife in cutting wood for models of something or other that struck his fancy, or he would go to a running stream, and make little millwheels to put into the water. Not only did the sheep stray and the wheat go unplanted, but the adolescent often forgot to return home for meals, a character trait that would resurface in the adult Newton. " Related to his passion for learning one of the sin listed by Newton was:-
... setting my heart on money, learning, and pleasure more than Thee...
This clearly tells us how passionate Newton was about learning.
On the other hand, all the endeavors of annoyed Hannah to change Newton's behavior went into vain and Newton continued to live for the creation of his own mind.
Impressed by the models and devices made by Newton and his urge for knowledge, Henry Stokes, the headmaster of King's School, was very keen about further studies of his star pupil and eventually decided to meet Hanna to convince her to allow Newton to pursue his studies further. According to him, "The only way whereby he could preserve or raise his fortune must be by fitting him for the university." Henry Stokes had a firm belief over the extraordinary possibilities inside Newton. He visited Hannah at Woolsthorpe and tried to make her understand. The headmaster even offered to forego forty shillings that every pupil who born at a distance more than one mile form Grantham had to pay. For a man of modest mean this was a big sacrifice. But to an illiterate woman, land was the only thing that mattered, which she owned now after her two marriages. She was unable to understand Newton as a person and the need and importance of higher studies for him. She finally consulted one of her brother, William Ayscough on this matter. Surprisingly, William also advised her that Newton should return to school and therefore a reluctant Hannah gave her consent.
Thus for completing his school education at the age of 17, Newton returned to the King's School in Grantham in 1660. Now he lodged with Henry Stokes, the headmaster of the school. It seems Henry Stokes was the person who shaped Newton's intellect in its initial stage to be a future scientist. Finally, in 1661, 18 years old Newton completed his school education.
At the moment of departure, with tears in his eyes, Henry Stokes, the headmaster of the King's School made a speech in which he praised a lot the young man and also urged the other youths to follow his example. For later generations of his admirers, Newton, with the aid of a penknife, left a simple but permanent record on a window ledge of King's School : "I. Newton."At Trinity College Cambridge
On 5th June, 1661, Newton entered Trinity College, Cambridge as a sizar- a sort of work-study role. A sizar was a student who used to serve other students and received an allowance in return towards college expenses. But as his mother was financially very well off, it seems there must be some confusion about his position as sizar. May be he was associated with the students of "better class" as Newton may have had a distant relative Humphrey Babington, a Fellow of Trinity, as his patron. It seems to be quite justifiable and goes well with known facts.
At Trinity Newton was older than most of his fellow students. It is reported that initially receiving a degree in Law was the aim of Newton at Cambridge. The college's teachings were based on the philosophies of Aristotle (Greek philosopher and polymath) at that time. Newton supplemented Aristotelian philosophy with the philosophies of modern philosophers such as Descartes, Gassendi, Hobbs and in particular Boyle and astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. Meanwhile he recorded his own thoughts in a book which he entitled Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae (Certain Philosophical Questions).
It is clear that Newton was yet far away from the interest or the studies of Mathematical Sciences. It is also ambiguous how he became familiar with the most advanced texts in mathematics of those days.
According to the famous mathematician Abraham de Moivre, "Newton's interest in mathematics began in the autumn of 1663 when he bought an astrology book (astrological science happens to be pure mathematical in its content) at a fair in Cambridge and found that he could not understand the mathematics in it. Again attempting to read a trigonometry (a branch of mathematics) book, he found that he lacked knowledge of geometry (another branch of mathematics which is essential to understand trigonometry) and so he decided to read the famous mathematician Barrow's edition of Euclid's Elements, a famous book on mathematics." First few results he found were so easy that he lost interest and almost gave up but he:-
... changed his mind when he read that parallelograms upon the same base and between the same parallels are equal.
After Euclid's Elements, Newton studied many books on mathematics like Oughtred's Clavis Mathematica, Descartes La Géométrie and analytical geometry of Viete. Newton also studied Wallis's Algebra. Newton's initial mathematical work was credited to his thorough study of Wallis's text. He studied Wallis's method for finding a square of equal area to a parabola and a hyperbola using indivisibles. On Wallis's treatment of series Newton made notes and derived his own proofs of the theorems also writing:-
Thus Wallis doth it, but it may be done thus...
There is no evidence or any mention of a guiding hand for Newton. It leads to the belief that Newton was an autodidact as far as his Mathematical education was concerned.
In 1663 Barrow arrived to the Lucasian chair at Cambridge. The person who holds the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics must be a mathematics professor at the University of Cambridge, England and he/she called as the Lucasian Professor. It is one of the most prestigious academic posts in the world. This post was founded by Henry Lucas in 1663. Henry Lucas was Cambridge University's Member of Parliament from 1639-1640. On January 18, 1664, this post was officially established by King Charles II. During this time Newton's talent started to blossom. To know and discover how his ideas were taking into shape is very interesting. Around 1664, he wrote a text with a Latin statement as a title which meant "Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my best friend is truth". It clearly shows that he was a free thinker of his own identities.
In 1664, at the age of 20, Newton was elected as a Fellow at Trinity College. By this time Newton was deeply involved in his mathematical studies. However there was some evidence that his progress had not been quite good, 21 year old Newton was elected a scholar on 28 April, 1664 after passing the required scholarship examinations and was promoted from the title of 'sizar' to a 'scholar'. In addition to a regular stipend, scholars had the facility of receiving free meals from the college. More importantly, being a scholar, he could be allowed to remain at the Trinity College to pursue a master's degree. Newton received his Bachelor's degree in the springs of 1665 when he was of 22 years of age.
In the summer of 1665 Newton had to return to his home in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire because the university had to be closed temporarily as a measure of precaution against the Great Plague. Newton spent those so called two years of great plague (1665-67) at his home in Lincolnshire. Still under 25 years of age, he completely devoted this period to the deep study of many subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Optics, Astronomy etc. He made revolutionary advances in these areas. This was the period in which he laid the foundations for differential and integral calculus also which he termed as the 'method of fluxions'. His discovery of 'method of fluxions' was preceded by many years of its independent discovery by the famous German mathematician, Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz. Newton's method was based on the very important fact that the process of integration of a function is the inverse procedure to its differentiation. Discovery of this truth was one of his very crucial insights. He produced many simple analytical methods that unified many separate techniques by considering differentiation as the basic operation. Previously these techniques were developed to use in solving problems that seemed to be not related such as finding the maxima and minima of functions, the lengths of curves, areas, tangents etc. He developed a mathematical theory that later termed as infinitesimal calculus. He was also credited to discover the generalized binomial theorem, optics and his famous law of gravitation.
During this period, Newton experienced the insight that has since become a legend. About this period, decades later, he wrote to the French scholar Pierre Des Maizeaux, "For in those days I was in the prime of my age of invention and minded mathematics and philosophy more than at any time since."
He returned to Cambridge in 1667 as a minor Fellow of Trinity. Fellows were required to become ordained priests (Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, i.e., made to associate with the sacred and set apart as clergy (a religious leader) to perform various religious rites and ceremonies). Due to his unorthodox views, Newton did not want to become an ordained priest. This time luck favored Newton as there was not any specific deadline for it. Ordination could be postponed indefinitely. However, the problem became more severe later in 1669 when Newton was elected for the prestigious Lucasian Chair. In July 1668 just after being awarded his Master's Degree, at the age of 25 and a half, Newton was elected for a major fellowship. By this election he was allowed to dine at the Fellows' Table. In July 1669, Barrow, who was the Lucasian Professor at Cambridge since 1663, made great efforts to bring Newton's mathematical achievements into the limelight. He sent Newton's text 'De Analysi' to John Collins, who was an English mathematician in London, writing:-
[Newton] "brought me the other day some papers, wherein he set down methods of calculating the dimensions of magnitudes like that of Mr. Mercator concerning the hyperbola, but very general; as also of resolving equations; which I suppose will please you; and I shall send you them by the next."
Collins response was very quick and positive. Keeping in mind that Barrow's action should lead to quick recognition, Collins corresponded with all the leading mathematicians of his time. With Newton's prior permission Collins showed his results to Brouncker, the President of the Royal Society. But after this, Newton requested Collins to return his manuscript.
Newton's work has been said, "to distinctly advance every branch of mathematics then studied". His mathematical works, especially the 'method of fluxion' or calculus could be seen in a manuscript of October 1666. It is now available in published form among Newton's mathematical papers. The manuscript titled "De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas", sent to John Collins in June 1669 and its author was later identified by Barrow. In August of that year Barrow wrote in a letter sent to Collins:"Mr. Newton, a fellow of our college, very young ... but of an extraordinary genius and proficiency in these things."
For devoting himself to divinity, Barrow resigned from the Lucasian chair in 1669 recommending Newton to be appointed in his place. Newton was still only 27 years old. In those days, becoming an ordained priest was compulsory for any fellow of Cambridge or Oxford though the holder of the Lucasian professorship may not be active in the church. It might be so because they could have more time to devote for science. Newton argued for the exemption from the ordination requirement for him. For this permission from Charles II was needed. Luckily and Surprisingly Charles II accepted this argument. So the clash between Newton's unorthodox views and Anglican orthodoxy could be managed to avert. Just after he was appointed as the Lucasian Professor, Newton visited London. There he met with Collins twice but later wrote:
"... having no more acquaintance with him I did not think it becoming to urge him to communicate anything."
As Lucasian Professor, Newton's first work was on optics. It was the topic of his first lecture course also which began in January 1670. According to him white light is not a simple entity. This view of Newton regarding white light was an entirely new idea. He had concluded this result about white light during the period of two plague years which he spent at his home in Lincolnshire. Until then it was believed that white light was a basic single entity. Since Aristotle every scientist believed the same. But Newton convinced otherwise as he could view chromatic aberration in a telescope lens in his experiments. By passing a thin beam of sunlight through a glass prism he noted the spectrum of seven colours that was formed.
With a series of many refined and elaborate experiments over the years Newton was enabled to discover 'measurable and mathematical patterns in the phenomenon of colour'. He concluded 'white light to be a mixture of infinitely varied coloured rays' which could easily be manifest in the rainbow and the spectrum. Each of these coloured rays can be defined by the angle through which it is refracted either on entering or leaving a given transparent medium. Newton correlated these findings with his study of the interference colours of thin films (of oil on water, or soap bubbles) also. To measure the thickness of such films he used a simple technique of extreme acuity.
According to Newton, light is made up of streams of minute particles. As a result of many years of his experiments Newton could make the inference about the magnitudes of the transparent 'corpuscles' which form the surfaces of bodies. According to their dimensions, these corpuscles interact with white light in such a manner that by the process of reflection these (corpuscles) impart different selective colours to the surfaces. Newton argued that 'white light is 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 concluded that 'the telescopes using refracting lenses would always suffer chromatic aberration.' So he proposed to make telescopes using reflecting lenses. Finally In 1672, he constructed a reflecting telescope.
After donating a reflecting telescope to the Royal society, Newton was elected a fellow of it at the age of 29 years. In the same year, Newton published his first scientific paper. This paper was based on light and colour and was published in the 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society'. Though the paper was well received, the society's celebrated curator of experiments Robert Hook and the famous mathematician Huygens objected and criticized it bitterly. Newton could not take it easy. This was the first issue when he locked horns with Robert Hooke.
Another paper of Newton was published in 1675 when he was of the age of 32. This paper also drew lightning. At this time he was charged with the claims that he had plagiarized from Hooke. Though the charges were totally ungrounded but a 'twice burnt Newton', withdrew. The controversy which rose around this whole scenario lasted for three years. During this period a particular behavior pattern developed in Newton. He had shown a very distinct two opposite poles of his character. One of it desired fame and recognition but the other wanted to avoid criticism. For Newton to publish nothing was the easiest way to avoid criticism. However peace between him and Hooke had ultimately been established by exchanging some polite letters, but Newton, who was working as the capacity of one of the leader leaders of Royal Society with Hooke, opted to be away from it.
Another controversy related to Newton was based on his theory of colours. A circle of English Jesuits in Liege alleged that his experiments were mistaken. Though their objections were superficial, Newton lashed into ferocity. The correspondence and debate on this issue continued until 1678. Finally on the peak of his rage Newton could not be able to sustain his mental peace and balance. This was a complete disaster as he undergone the turmoil of complete nervous breakdown, which was followed by a complete silence. Above all these his mother died in the next year, which completed Newton's isolation.
It is reported that Newton had a very bitter relationship with his mother in later life also. Abandoned with the motherly love and care since childhood, he collected rage and resentments towards women. May be this was the reason behind his illogical hatred towards women during his entire life. There is no evidence of love or romance in Newton's life. However, it is also reported that Newton was once engaged, but he never married. This claim was made by Dr. William Stukeley, in 1727, in a letter about Newton written to an English physician and a fellow of Royal Society, Dr. Richard Mead. In the late 18th century, Charles Hutton collected oral traditions about earlier scientists. He declares that there "do not appear to be any sufficient reason for his never marrying, if he had an inclination so to do. It is much more likely that he had a constitutional indifference to the state and even to the sex in general." After his nervous breakdown, Newton completely withdrew himself from the intellectual circuits for long six years. Only when someone else initiated any correspondence, he responded as soon as possible.
Newton was working on many subjects at the same time. His work in physics and celestial mechanics was his greatest achievement. It culminated into his most sought after theory of universal gravitation. Newton had early versions of his world famous 'Three laws of Motion' since 1666. Giving the centrifugal force on an object moving uniformly in a circular path, he had discovered these laws. However he did not understand the mechanics of circular motion correctly.
By watching the fall of an apple from a tree, Newton was inspired to formulate his theory of gravitation. Newton himself told this story many times and it is confirmed by his friend William Stukeley also. Stukeley once visited Newton at his home in Kensington. They went into the garden to drink tea after dining. They were sitting under some apple trees. "Amidst other discourse", Stukeley wrote, "he told me he was just in the same situation as when formerly the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood."
This event was also described by John Conduitt who was the assistant of Newton's at the Royal Mint and was the husband of his niece. Royal Mint was the body permitted to manufacture coins in United Kingdom. While writing about Newton's life, Conduitt described: "In the year 1666 he retired again from Cambridge to his mother in Lincolnshire. Whilst he was pensively meandering in a garden it came into his thought that the power of gravity (which brought an apple from a tree to the ground) was not limited to a certain distance from Earth, but that this power must extend much further than was usually thought. Why not as high as the Moon said he to himself & if so, that must influence her motion & perhaps retain her in her orbit, whereupon he fell a calculation what would be the effect of that supposition."
A French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire also wrote in his 'Essay on Epic Poetry', "Sir Isaac Newton walking in his gardens, had the first thought of his system of gravitation, upon seeing an apple falling from a tree." This was the most excellent idea of Newton, his truly brilliant insight: if the force of gravity reaches to the top of the highest tree, might it not reach even further; in particular, might it not reach all the way to the orbit of the Moon! Then, the orbit of the Moon about the Earth could be a consequence of the gravitational force, because the acceleration due to gravity could change the velocity of the Moon in just such a way that it followed an orbit around the Earth.
This can be illustrated with an experiment: Suppose, a cannon is fired horizontally from a high mountain; the projectile will eventually fall to Earth because of the gravitational force directed toward the centre of the Earth and the associated acceleration (acceleration is a change in velocity and that velocity is a vector, so it has both a magnitude and a direction. Thus, acceleration occurs if either or both the magnitude and the direction of the velocity change). But if the muzzle velocity is increased for the imaginary cannon, the projectile will travel further and further before returning to Earth.
Finally, Newton reasoned that if the cannon projected the cannon ball with exactly the right velocity, the projectile would travel completely around the Earth, always falling in the gravitational field but never reaching the Earth, which is curving away at the same rate that the projectile falls. That is, the cannon ball would have been put into orbit around the Earth. Newton concluded that the orbit of the Moon was exactly of the same nature: the Moon continuously 'fell' in its path around the Earth because of the acceleration due to gravity, thus producing its orbit.
By such reasoning, Newton came to the conclusion that any two objects in the universe exert gravitational attraction on each other, with the force having a universal form. Newton analyzed the motion of bodies in resisting and non-resisting media under the action of centripetal forces. The results were applied to orbiting bodies, projectiles, pendulums and free-fall near the Earth. He further demonstrated that the planets were attracted toward the Sun by a force varying as the inverse square of the distance and generalized that all heavenly bodies mutually attract one another.
Further generalization led Newton to the law of universal gravitation:-
"... all matter attracts all other matter with a force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them."
The word Gravity comes from a Latin word 'gravitas' which means 'heavy'. So it can be said that Newton did not exactly 'discover' gravity, but he was the one who gave a new meaning to what heaviness was. The theories defining the same allowed him to depict celestial bodies, like planets and moons, as 'exerting gravitational forces on each other, as indicated by their orbital motions.' According to his theories, a planet does not float away from the Sun, simply because there is this imperceptible gravitational force between the planet, the Sun and the Moon that continuously pulls it back. 'Planets and the Sun were, in effect, heavy'.
Thus, Newton's novel idea of 1666 was to imagine that the Earth's gravity influenced the Moon, counter- balancing its centrifugal force. Envisioning the Moon as a giant apple, Newton developed the idea of how gravity works. The satellite's tendency to move away from Earth in a straight line is counteracted by the inward pull of gravity, which produces an orbit, much as an object on a string when it is whirled around one's head. The Moon is perfectly balanced between the tendency to move outward (centrifugal force) and the inward pull of Earth.
From his law of centrifugal force and Kepler's third law of planetary motion, Newton deduced the inverse square law. In 1679, when Newton was 36 years old, he corresponded with Hooke who had written to Newton claiming:-
... that the Attraction always is in a duplicate proportion to the Distance from the Centre Reciprocall...
M Nauenberg, Professor of Physics at Cambridge University, writes an account of the next events:-
After his 1679 correspondence with Hooke, Newton, by his own account, found a proof that Kepler's areal law was a consequence of centripetal forces, and he also showed that if the orbital curve is an ellipse under the action of central forces then the radial dependence of the force is Inverse Square with the distance from the centre.
This discovery showed the physical significance of Kepler's second law (sometimes referred to as the law of equal areas,it describes the speed at which any given planet will move while orbiting the Sun.)
Meanwhile, Newton's unconventional ideas regarding white light and colours provoked hostile criticism mainly because colours were thought to be modified forms of homogeneous white light. Doubts and Newton's rejoinders were printed in the learned journals. Notably, the skepticism of Huygens and the failure of the French Physicist Edmé Mariotte to duplicate Newton's refraction experiments in 1681 set scientists on the Continent against him for a generation.
On Newton's universal law of motion and the physical significance of Kepler's second law, in 1684, Edmond Halley (an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist and physicist who is best-known for computing the orbit of the eponymus Halley's Comet), tired of Hooke's boasting:-
... asked Newton what orbit a body followed under an inverse square force, and Newton replied immediately that it would be an ellipse. However in 'De Motu..' he only gave a proof of the converse theorem that if the orbit is an ellipse the force is inverse square. The proof that inverse square forces imply conic section orbits is sketched in Cor. 1 to Prop 13 in Book 1 of the second and third editions of the 'Principia', but not in the first edition.
Halley persuaded Newton to write a full treatment of his new physics and its application to astronomy. On July 5, 1687 when Newton was 44 years old, he published the 'Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica', commonly known as the 'Principia', with the encouragement and financial help from Halley. It took two to three years of intense mental effort to prepare this book in which Newton also presented a calculus-like method of geometrical analysis by 'first and last ratios' and gave the first analytical determination of the speed of sound in air. The Principia is recognized as the greatest scientific book ever written. With this, Newton acquired a circle of admirers, including the Swiss-born mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, with whom he formed an intense relationship.
Newton was elected as a member of the Parliament of England from 1689 to 1690. In 1691, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, to whom Newton was very close, started to write a new version of Newton's Principia, and corresponded with Leibniz. Interestingly, in his correspondence to Richard Bentley (an English classical scholar, critic, theologian and a Master of Trinity College, Cambridge), dated 10 December, 1692, Newton claimed that in writing the Principia "I had an eye upon such Principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity." In 1693, the relationship between Duillier and Newton deteriorated, and the book on which Duillier was working, never got completed. Maybe Duillier's communication with Leibniz was the reason which unsettled Newton, as he was involved in a dispute with Leibniz over priority in the development of infinitesimal calculus. In the same year, at the age of 50 years, Newton suffered his second nervous breakdown.
Most modern historians believe that Newton and Leibniz developed infinitesimal calculus independently, although with very different notations. Occasionally, it has been suggested that Newton 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. Leibniz's notation and 'differential method' are recognized now a days as much more convenient notations. They were adopted by the Continental European mathematicians, and after 1820 or so, also by the British mathematicians.
Newton is credited with many remarkable contributions in mathematics also, such as 'generalized binomial theorem (valid for any exponent)', 'Newton's identities', "Newton's method', 'classified cubic plane curves (polynomials of degree three in two variables)' etc. He 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.
Later, Newton decided to leave Cambridge to take up a government position in London. During his London years Newton enjoyed power and worldly success. He became Warden of the Royal Mint in 1696. For many people such a position would have been treated as simply a reward for their scientific achievements but Newton did not treat it as such and he made a strong contribution to the work of the Mint.
As Warden of the Royal Mint, Newton showcased one more dimension of his personality as a strict administrator. Once, Newton estimated that 20 percent of the coins taken in during 'The Great Recoinage' of 1696 were counterfeit. Counterfeiting was high treason, punishable by the felon's being hanged, drawn and quartered. Despite this, convicting the most flagrant criminals could be extremely difficult. However, Newton proved to be equal to the task. Disguised as a habitué of bars and taverns, he gathered much of that evidence himself. For all the barriers placed to prosecution, and separating the branches of government, English law still had ancient and formidable customs of authority. Newton conducted more than 100 cross-examinations of witnesses, informers and suspects between June 1698 and December 1699 and successfully prosecuted twenty-eight coiners.
One of Newton's cases as the King's attorney was against William Chaloner. Chaloner's schemes included setting up phony conspiracies of Catholics and then turning in the hapless conspirators whom he had entrapped. Chaloner made himself rich enough to posture as a gentleman. Petitioning the Parliament, Chaloner accused the Mint of providing tools to counterfeiters (a charge also made by others). He proposed that he be allowed to inspect the Mint's processes in order to improve them. He petitioned the Parliament to adopt his plans for a coinage that could not be counterfeited, while at the same time striking false coins. Newton put Chaloner on trial for counterfeiting and had him sent to Newgate Prison in September 1697. But Chaloner had some very powerful friends and they helped him secure an acquittal and his release. Newton put him on trial for a second time with conclusive evidence. Chaloner was convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered on 23rd March, 1699 at Tyburn gallows, London.
Newton became Master of the Royal Mint in 1699. However, he did not resign from his positions at Cambridge until 1701. In 1701, Newton was elected as a member of the Parliament of England again. Up to this time, Newton became a very rich man. In 1703, at the age of 60, Newton was elected President of the Royal Society. In the same year, Newton's critique Robert Hook passed away. After the death of Robert Hook, Newton published his book 'Opticks' in 1704. Opticks dealt with the theory of light and colour with investigations of the colours of thin sheets, 'Newton's rings' and diffraction of light. To explain some of his observations Newton had to use a wave theory of light in conjunction with his corpuscular theory. Publication of Opticks had made it obvious that Newton saw evidence of design in the system of the world:
"Such a wonderful uniformity in the planetary system must be allowed the effect of choice". (Opticks)
In a manuscript written in 1704, Newton described his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible and he estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. In predicting this he said, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
In 1705, at the age of 62, Newton was knighted by Queen Anne. Newton was the second scientist to be knighted. (First scientist to be knighted was Sir Francis Bacon in 1603).
Related to the subjects of alchemy and chemistry, Newton left a mass of manuscripts. Most of these were extracts from books, bibliographies, dictionaries, and so on, but a few of them are original. Newton had began intensive experimentation in 1669, continuing till he left Cambridge, seeking to unravel the meaning that he hoped was hidden in alchemical obscurity and mysticism. He believed that God had created the nature and structure of all matter, formed from the solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles. Most importantly, in the 'Queries' appended to 'Opticks' and in the essay 'On the Nature of Acids', Newton published an incomplete theory of chemical force, concealing his exploration of the alchemists, which only became known a century after his death.
Newton explained a wide range of previously unrelated phenomena: the eccentric orbits of comets, the tides and their variations, the precession of the Earth's axis and motion of the Moon as perturbed by the gravity of the Sun. But his postulate of an invisible force able to act over vast distances led to him being criticized for introducing 'occult agencies' into science. Occult literary means 'knowledge of the hidden' and eschatology is defined as 'The department of theological science concerned with 'the four last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell.' In the context of mysticism, the phrase refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine.
Newton wrote many works that would now be classified as occult studies. These occult works explored chronology, alchemy and Biblical interpretation. Newton's scientific work may have been of lesser personal importance to him, as he placed emphasis on rediscovering the occult wisdom of the ancients. In this sense, some have commented that the common reference a 'Newtonian Worldview' as being purely mechanistic is somewhat inaccurate. Later, in the second edition of the Principia (1713), Newton firmly rejected such criticisms, saying, "it was enough that the phenomena implied a gravitational attraction, as they did; but they did not so far indicate its cause, and it was both unnecessary and improper to frame hypotheses of things that were not implied by the phenomena."
With the Principia, Newton became internationally recognized. Even then, the Continental scientists certainly did not accept the idea of action at a distance and continued to believe in Descartes vortex theory where forces work through contact. Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became Newton's best-known discoveries, it is reported that because of his religious views which did not match with the Roman Catholics, he warned against using them to view the universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He said, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."
Newton's religious views were different from that of Roman Catholics. He saw God as the master creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation. Although, Newton was an unorthodox Christian, he was deeply religious. He wrote more on Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than on science and mathematics. Newton secretly rejected Trinitarianism (a Christian belief system that God exists as three persons but is actually one being. The persons are understood to exist as God the Father, God the son (incarnate as Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit, each of them having the one identical essence or nature), but he also feared of being accused of refusing holy orders. The full extent of Newton's unorthodoxy was recognized only in the present century: but although a critic of Trinitarian dogmas and the Council of Nicaea, he possessed a deep religious sense, venerated the Bible and accepted its account of creation.
Representing his life long study and his own perception about religion and God, Newton wrote on Judaeo-Christian Prophecy, whose decipherment was essential according to him, for the understanding of God. His book was reprinted well into the Victorian Age. Its message was that Christianity went astray in the 4th century AD, when the first Council of Nicaea propounded erroneous doctrines of the nature of Christ. In late editions of his scientific works Newton expressed a strong sense of God's providential role in nature.
Along with his scientific fame, Newton's studies of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were also noteworthy. Newton wrote works on textual criticism, most notably 'An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture'. He placed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at 3 April, AD 33, which agrees with one traditionally accepted date. He also tried unsuccessfully to find hidden messages within the Bible.
Newton believed in a rationally immanent world, but he rejected the hylozoism (the doctrine that matter is inseparable from life, which is a property of matter) implicit in Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza ( Jewish Dutch philosopher). The ordered and dynamically informed universe could be understood, and must be understood, by an active reason. But Newton insisted that divine intervention would eventually be required to reform the system, due to the slow growth of instabilities. For this, Leibniz lampooned him: "God Almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion." Newton's position was vigorously defended by his follower Samuel Clarke in a famous correspondence. A century later, the famous French mathematician and astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace's work 'Celestial Mechanics' had a natural explanation for why the planet orbits don't require periodic divine intervention.
Newton even owned more books on humanistic learning than on mathematics and science and all his life he studied them deeply. His unpublished 'classical scholia'-explanatory notes intended for use in a future edition of the Principia-reveal his knowledge of pre-Socratic philosophy. Newton sought to reconcile the Greek mythology and the Bible (considered the prime authority on the early history of mankind). In his work on chronology, Newton undertook to make Jewish and pagan dates compatible, and to fix them absolutely from an astronomical argument about the earliest constellation figures devised by the Greeks. He put the fall of Troy at 904 BC, about 500 years later than other scholars and this was not well received.Last decade of Newton's life
As Newtonian science became increasingly accepted on the Continent, and especially after a general peace was restored in 1714, following the War of the Spanish Succession, around the age of 71 years, Newton became the most highly esteemed natural philosopher in Europe. With early criticism and controversies, from about 1715, Opticks established itself as a model of the interweaving of theory with quantitative experimentation. Newton also constructed a primitive form of a frictional electrostatic generator, using a glass globe (Optics, 8th Query). In an article entitled 'Newton, prisms, and the 'opticks' of tunable lasers' it is indicated that Newton was the first to show a diagram using a prism as a beam expander in his book 'Opticks'. In the same book he describes, via diagrams, the use of multiple-prism arrays. Some 278 years after Newton's discussion, multiple-prism beam expanders became central to the development of narrow-line width tunable lasers. Also, the use of these prismatic beam expanders led to the multiple-prism dispersion theory. But today's quantum mechanics, photons and the idea of wave-particle duality bear only a minor resemblance to Newton's understanding of light.
De Motu (on Motion), an essay written by the famous Anglo-Irish philosopher George Berkeley and published in 1721 was unsuccessfully submitted for a prize that had been offered by the Royal Academy of Sciences at Peris. Berkeley rejected Sir Isaac Newton's absolute space, time and motion. With this essay, Berkeley is considered to be the precursor of Ernst Mach (an Austrian physicist and philosopher) and Albert Einstein (German-born theoretical physicist famous for general theory of relativity).
In his later life, Newton got involved badly in a dispute with Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz, a famous German mathematician, as to who had invented the calculus. Given the rage that Newton had shown throughout his life when criticized, it is not surprising that he flew into an irrational temper directed against Leibniz. Newton used his position as President of the Royal Society and in this capacity he appointed an 'impartial' committee to decide whether he or Leibniz was the inventor of the calculus. He wrote the official report of the committee (although of course it did not appear under his name) which was published by the Royal Society, and he then wrote a review (again anonymously) which appeared in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
It was also a fact that Newton's De Methodis Serierum et Fluxionum was written in 1671 but Newton failed to get it published and it did not appear in print until John Colson (English mathematician) produced an English translation in 1736. Newton had been reluctant to publish his calculus because he feared controversy and criticism. Newton's assistant, William Whiston had seen his rage first hand. Whiston was an English mathematician who succeeded Newton as Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, but was later deprived of his chair on religious grounds. He wrote:-
"Newton was one of the most fearful, cautious and suspicious temper that I ever knew."
When Newton was asked how he had made his discoveries, he replied, "Truth is the offspring of silence and unbroken meditation." In his later life, when asked for an assessment of his achievements, Newton replied, "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 now and then in finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
Newton's last decade was passed in revising his major works, polishing his studies of ancient history and defending himself against critics, as well as carrying out his official duties as President of the Royal Society. Newton was modest, diffident and a man of simple tastes. He was angered by criticism or opposition, and harbored resentment; he was harsh towards enemies but generous to friends. In government, and at the Royal Society, he proved an able administrator. Towards the end of his life, Isaac Newton lived at Cranbury Park, near Winchester with his niece, Catherine Conduitt, and her husband John Conduitt, who was his assistant at the Royal Mint. He was one of the most famous men in Europe. His scientific discoveries were unchallenged. He had also become wealthy, investing his sizeable income wisely and bestowing ample gifts to charity. However, in his later years, a combination of pride, insecurity and side-trips on peculiar scientific inquiries led even some of his few friends to worry about his mental stability.
At the age of 84, Newton died in his sleep in London on 31st March, 1727 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Newton had divested much of his estate to relatives during his last years, and died intestate. After his death, Newton's hair was examined and found to contain mercury, probably resulting from his alchemical pursuits. According to most scholars, Newton was a monotheist who believed in Biblical prophecies but was Anti-Trinitarian. In an age notable for its religious intolerance, there are few public expressions of Newton's radical views, most notably his refusal to receive holy orders and his refusal, on his death bed, to receive the sacrament (a sacred rite) when it was offered to him.
Newton has been regarded for almost 300 years as the founding exemplar of modern physical science, his achievements in experimental investigation being as innovative as those in mathematical research. Most of his findings are useful and are the basis of modern physical and astronomical science of today's world including the science and technology of satellites. His most famous three universal laws of motion enabled many of the advances of the Industrial Revolution which soon followed and were not to be improved upon for more than 300 years, and are still the underpinnings of the non-relativistic technologies of the modern world.
The alchemy behind Newton's mind and soul that achieved his extraordinary discoveries like never before always remains obscure, but tracing the trajectory of Newton's achievements is also very interesting. William Whiston, an assistant and disciple of Newton wrote, "Sir Newton, in mathematics, could sometimes see almost by intuition, even without demonstration and when he did propose conjectures in natural philosophy, he almost always knew them to be true at the same time."
English poet Alexander Pope was moved by Newton's accomplishments to write the famous epitaph:
Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said, "Let Newton be" and all was light.
Albert Einstein kept a picture of Newton on his study wall alongside ones of Michael Faraday (English scientist) and James Clerk Maxwell (Scottish mathematical Physicist). One Newton scholar remarked, "It would take another Newton to understand Newton."
In his own life Newton was revered as God. French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange often said that Newton was the greatest genius who ever lived, and once added, that Newton was also "the most fortunate, for we cannot find more than once a system of the world to establish." Indeed Newton was the greatest genius who ever lived.
Article name: Sir Isaac Newton Influential Scientist Philosophy essay, research paper, dissertation