Isaac Newton was born in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, England on December 25, 1642. He grew up to be one of the most influential physicists and mathematicians that ever lived. His research led to the foundation of classical mechanics and he made multiple contributions to optics.
Newton’s educational path brought him to the King’s School in Grantham, but his mother attempted to make him a farmer and removed him from the school. He managed to continue his studies and in 1661, he was accepted into the Trinity College in Cambridge. During his life as a student at the college, Newton began working on a mathematical theory that would later become infinitesimal calculus.
His research continued after obtaining his degree at his home as the college was closed for several years. In 1667, Newton returned as a member of the Trinity of Cambridge.
Contribution to Mathematics
Isaac Newton developed infinitesimal calculus and published a paper on the topic in 1693. His research was subject to controversy as there were multiple debates about the authenticity of the work. It was speculated that his research used some of the remarks made by Gottfried Leibniz, another well-known mathematician.
Newton’s contribution to mathematics also included the generalized binomial theory, the discovery of Newton’s identities, classified cubic plane curves, Newton’s method and his theory of finite differences.
All his work in the mathematical field got him appointed to be the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1669.
Contribution to Optics
In 1666, Newton began the study of color spectrum within prism-like objects. He concluded that color is an attribute generated by light to a certain point. He continued to lecture and study light’s refraction from 1670 till 1672. During that time, he discovered that color is the direct result of the interaction between an object and light and that the object is not capable of generating the color on its own.
His first publication, Hypothesis of Light, presented his findings about light and the forces between particles. In 1704, he published his second book named Opticks which presented multiple principles that are used today for narrow tunable lasers.
Mechanics and Gravitation
The year 1679 was the year in which Newton would return to celestial mechanics, gravitation, and planetary orbits. In 1681, he began work on a paper that managed to prove the elliptical form of planetary orbits caused by centripetal forces.
His research was expanded in Principia, a book that he published in 1687 which became recognized internationally and got him multiple followers. Newton’s book contained the three main universal laws of motion that lead to the Industrial Revolution amongst which he managed defined gravity and the universal law of gravitation.
Newton’s theories supported the heliocentric model of our solar system and also proved the deviation of the sun from the gravitational center of the system. He talked about gravity, saying it is an invisible force that is able to act over long distances, which got him criticized. He was accused of trying to introduce “occult agencies” into science.
Newton tackled religion as well. In the 1690s, he published multiple religious tracts that focused on the literal interpretation of the Bible. One of his manuscripts managed to get published more than 50 years after his death in which he questioned the existence of the Biblical Holy Trinity.
In 1689, he was appointed Warden of the British Royal Mint and during that time, he managed to get 28 coiners prosecuted for counterfeiting coins.
From 1689-90 and 1701-2, Isaac Newton was appointed member of the Parliament of England, but he tried not to get involved in political matters and debates, focusing only on his research. His activity got him appreciated even by Queen Anne who knighted Newton in 1705. He became the second man of science to be knighted after Francis Bacon.
Close to the end of his life, Newton moved near Winchester. In his final years, the scientist became inactive in terms of research and publications. It is speculated that he was researching alchemy, but no papers were found on this topic were found.
Newton died on March 20, 1727. His hair was examined after his death and traces of mercury were found which lead to the belief that he also chased alchemical experiments. His research was heavily applied during the Industrial Revolution for a little over 200 years. Albert Einstein himself had a picture of Newton pinned on his study wall.
In 2005, a survey revealed that Newton remains the most influential scientists in history. His “Apple incident” is the most known moment in his scientific career that is still referenced today.