Sir Issac Newton

By Stanley L. Johnson, Jr

Sir Isaac Newton, the culminating figure of the scientific revolution of the 17th century, was born on January 4, 1643 Woolsthrope, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. Many considered him to be the greatest scientific genius of all time. He made significant contributions to every major area of scientific and mathematical concern of his generation. He was raised by his grandmother. In 1661, at the age of 18, Newton enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge. Despite the fact that the curriculum at Cambridge was still dominated by the philosophies of Aristotle, Newton began looking into areas that were, to his psyche, questionable. He became more familiar and with philosophies of Descartes, Gassendi, Boyle, Copernicus, and Galileo. Furthermore, due to the Plague, Newton didn't receive much clout until after he left Trinity College and moved back to Lincolnshire. Within 18 months he began revolutionary advances in mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy.

In Mathematics, Newton was instrumental in creating what we now know as Calculus. Even though Leibniz was given the credit for it, Newton had laid the foundation for elementary differential and anti-derivative (integral) calculus. Newton realized that the integration of a function, or it's area, is merely the inverse procedure to differentiating, or taking its derivative and finding the slope of the curve at any point on the line. Using differentiation as his platform, Newton began to produce simple analytical methods that became instrumental in finding areas, tangents, lengths and widths of curves, and their maximums and minimums points. At the age of 27, Newton became the Chairperson of the Mathematics Department at Trinity College.

In Optics, Newton came to the conclusions that white light wasn't a homogenous entity, but rather a combination of colors. This is because after doing research with a class, Newton passed a beam of sunlight through a piece of glass and noted that the spectrum consisted of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet colors. This was ground-breaking news precisely because prior to these findings, everyone had just accepted Aristotle's notions that white lights are homogeneous elements. In 1672, Newton was elected into the Royal Society, a prestigious scientific society of the day.

In Physics, Newton was instrumental creating the theory of universal gravitation. The story that we all have learned in school where an apple falls from a tree and drops on the head of a man is a misnomer. Newton's Three Laws of Motions (1666) could be applied to almost anything that dealt with gravity. From his laws of centrifugal, Newton created what we now know in Physics as the centripetal force. He deduced that the centrifugal force of tip or of any planet must decrease as the inverse square of its distance from the center of its motion.

In Astronomy, Newton allowed his theories on the laws of gravitation and the laws motion to explain a wide range of preconceived phenomena that were considered to be absolute truths. Newton's one general law of nature and one system of mechanics reduced to order most if the known problems of astronomy and terrestrial physics. As a result of some of his findings, Newton published his well-known Principia. Despite the fact that several of his contemporaries criticized his theories, Newton was recognized as the leading natural philosopher of the age. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1693 and retired from research and became Warden of the Royal Mint before Master. He was the first scientist to be knighted by Queen Anne. Sir Issac Newton died on March 31, 1727 at the age of 84.