HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician,
physicist A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe. Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate caus ...
,
astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe astronomical objects such as stars, planets, natural satellite, moons, comets and galaxy, g ...
,
alchemist Alchemy (from Arabic: ''al-kīmiyā''; from Ancient Greek: χυμεία, ''khumeía'') is an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscience, protoscientific tradition that was historically practiced in Chinese alchemy, C ...
,
theologian Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the ...
, and author (described in his time as a "
natural philosopher Natural philosophy or philosophy of nature (from Latin ''philosophia naturalis'') is the philosophy, philosophical study of Physics (Aristotle), physics, that is, nature and the physical universe. It was dominant before the development of mode ...
"), widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists and among the most influential scientists of all time. He was a key figure in the philosophical revolution known as the Enlightenment. His book (''Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy''), first published in 1687, established
classical mechanics Classical mechanics is a Theoretical physics, physical theory describing the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of Machine (mechanical), machinery, and astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galax ...
. Newton also made seminal contributions to
optics Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of optical instruments, instruments that use or Photodetector, detect it. Optics usually describes t ...
, and shares credit with German mathematician
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz . ( – 14 November 1716) was a German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist and diplomat. He is one of the most prominent figures in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathema ...
for developing
infinitesimal calculus Calculus, originally called infinitesimal calculus or "the calculus of infinitesimals", is the mathematics, mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape, and algebra is the study of generalizati ...
. In the , Newton formulated the laws of motion and
universal gravitation Newton's law of universal gravitation is usually stated as that every particle attracts every other particle in the universe with a force that is Proportionality (mathematics)#Direct proportionality, proportional to the product of their masses an ...
that formed the dominant scientific viewpoint for centuries until it was superseded by the
theory of relativity The theory of relativity usually encompasses two interrelated theories by Albert Einstein: special relativity and general relativity, proposed and published in 1905 and 1915, respectively. Special relativity applies to all physical phenomena in ...
. Newton used his mathematical description of
gravity In physics, gravity () is a fundamental interaction which causes mutual attraction between all things with mass or energy. Gravity is, by far, the weakest of the four fundamental interactions, approximately 1038 times weaker than the strong ...
to derive
Kepler's laws of planetary motion In astronomy Astronomy () is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and chronology of the Universe, evolution. Ob ...
, account for
tide Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravity, gravitational forces exerted by the Moon (and to a much lesser extent, the Sun) and are also caused by the Earth and Moon orbiting one another. Tide t ...
s, the trajectories of
comet A comet is an icy, small Solar System body that, when passing close to the Sun, warms and begins to release gases, a process that is called outgassing. This produces a visible atmosphere or Coma (cometary), coma, and sometimes also a Comet ta ...
s, the
precession of the equinoxes In astronomy, axial precession is a gravity-induced, slow, and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body's Rotation around a fixed axis, rotational axis. In the absence of precession, the astronomical body's orbit would show ...
and other phenomena, eradicating doubt about the
Solar System The Solar SystemCapitalization of the name varies. The International Astronomical Union, the authoritative body regarding astronomical nomenclature, specifies capitalizing the names of all individual astronomical objects but uses mixed "Solar S ...
's
heliocentricity Heliocentrism (also known as the Heliocentric model) is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the center of the universe. Historically, heliocentrism was opposed to Geocentric model, geocentrism, which p ...
. He demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth and
celestial bodies An astronomical object, celestial object, stellar object or heavenly body is a naturally occurring physical object, physical entity, association, or structure that exists in the observable universe. In astronomy, the terms ''object'' and ''bod ...
could be accounted for by the same principles. Newton's inference that the Earth is an
oblate spheroid A spheroid, also known as an ellipsoid of revolution or rotational ellipsoid, is a quadric surface (mathematics), surface obtained by Surface of revolution, rotating an ellipse about one of its principal axes; in other words, an ellipsoid with ...
was later confirmed by the geodetic measurements of
Maupertuis Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (; ; 1698 – 27 July 1759) was a French mathematician, philosopher and man of letters. He became the Director of the Académie des Sciences, and the first President of the Prussian Academy of Science, at the ...
, La Condamine, and others, convincing most European scientists of the superiority of Newtonian mechanics over earlier systems. Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a sophisticated theory of colour based on the observation that a prism separates white light into the colours of the
visible spectrum The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visual perception, visible to the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called ''visible light'' or simply light. A typical human eye wil ...
. His work on light was collected in his highly influential book ''
Opticks ''Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light'' is a book by English people, English natural philosopher Isaac Newton that was published in English language, English in 1704 (a scholarly Latin transl ...
'', published in 1704. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling, made the first theoretical calculation of the
speed of sound The speed of sound is the distance travelled per unit of time by a sound wave as it propagates through an elasticity (solid mechanics), elastic medium. At , the speed of sound in air is about , or one kilometre in or one mile in . It depends ...
, and introduced the notion of a
Newtonian fluid A Newtonian fluid is a fluid in which the viscous stress tensor, viscous stresses arising from its Fluid dynamics, flow are at every point linearly correlated to the local strain rate — the derivative (mathematics), rate of change of its deforma ...
. In addition to his work on calculus, as a mathematician Newton contributed to the study of power series, generalised the
binomial theorem In elementary algebra, the binomial theorem (or binomial expansion) describes the algebraic expansion of powers of a binomial. According to the theorem, it is possible to expand the polynomial into a sum involving terms of the form , where th ...
to non-integer exponents, developed a method for approximating the roots of a function, and classified most of the
cubic plane curve In mathematics, a cubic plane curve is a plane algebraic curve defined by a cubic equation : applied to homogeneous coordinates for the projective plane; or the inhomogeneous version for the affine space determined by setting in such an equ ...
s. Newton was a fellow of
Trinity College Trinity College may refer to: Australia * Trinity Anglican College, an Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican coeducational primary and secondary school in , New South Wales * Trinity Catholic College, Auburn, a coeducational school in the inner-w ...
and the second
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics The Lucasian Chair of Mathematics () is a mathematics professorship in the University of Cambridge, England; its holder is known as the Lucasian Professor. The post was founded in 1663 by Henry Lucas (politician), Henry Lucas, who was Cambridge U ...
at the
University of Cambridge The University of Cambridge is a Public university, public collegiate university, collegiate research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209 and granted a royal charter by Henry III of England, Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the world' ...
. Newton was a devout but unorthodox
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of ...
who privately rejected the doctrine of the
Trinity The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (, from 'threefold') is the central dogma concerning the nature of God in most Christian churches, which defines one God existing in three coequal, coeternal, consubstantial divine persons: God t ...
. He refused to take holy orders in the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church record ...
, unlike most members of the Cambridge faculty of the day. Beyond his work on the mathematical sciences, Newton dedicated much of his time to the study of
alchemy Alchemy (from Arabic: ''al-kīmiyā''; from Ancient Greek: χυμεία, ''khumeía'') is an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscience, protoscientific tradition that was historically practiced in Chinese alchemy, C ...
and biblical chronology, but most of his work in those areas remained unpublished until long after his death. Politically and personally tied to the Whig party, Newton served two brief terms as Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge, in 1689–1690 and 1701–1702. He was
knight A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity), state#Foakes, Foakes, pp. 110–11 " he head of sta ...
ed by Queen Anne in 1705 and spent the last three decades of his life in London, serving as Warden (1696–1699) and Master (1699–1727) of the
Royal Mint The Royal Mint is the United Kingdom's oldest company and the official maker of British coins. Operating under the legal name The Royal Mint Limited, it is a limited company that is wholly owned by HM Treasury, His Majesty's Treasury and is un ...
, as well as president of the
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, ...
(1703–1727).


Early life


Early life

Isaac Newton was born (according to the
Julian calendar The Julian calendar, proposed by Roman consul Julius Caesar in 46 BC, was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect on , by edict. It was designed with the aid of Greek mathematics, Greek mathematicians and Ancient Greek astronomy, as ...
in use in England at the time) on Christmas Day, 25 December 1642 ( NS 4 January 1643), "an hour or two after midnight", at Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a
hamlet ''The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'', often shortened to ''Hamlet'' (), is a tragedy Tragedy (from the grc-gre, wiktionary:τραγῳδία, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a genre of drama based on human ...
in the county of Lincolnshire. His father, also named Isaac Newton, had died three months before. Born prematurely, Newton was a small child; his mother Hannah Ayscough reportedly said that he could have fit inside a
quart The quart (symbol: qt) is an English unit of volume equal to a quarter gallon The gallon is a unit of measurement, unit of volume in imperial units and United States customary units. Three different versions are in current use: *the ...
mug. When Newton was three, his mother remarried and went to live with her new husband, the Reverend Barnabas Smith, leaving her son in the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough (née Blythe). Newton disliked his stepfather and maintained some enmity towards his mother for marrying him, as revealed by this entry in a list of sins committed up to the age of 19: "Threatening my father and mother Smith to burn them and the house over them." Newton's mother had three children (Mary, Benjamin, and Hannah) from her second marriage.


The King's School

From the age of about twelve until he was seventeen, Newton was educated at The King's School in
Grantham Grantham () is a market and industrial town in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England, situated on the banks of the River Witham and bounded to the west by the A1 road (Great Britain), A1 road. It lies some 23 miles (37 km) s ...
, which taught Latin and Ancient Greek and probably imparted a significant foundation of mathematics. He was removed from school and returned to Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth by October 1659. His mother, widowed for the second time, attempted to make him a farmer, an occupation he hated. Henry Stokes, master at The King's School, persuaded his mother to send him back to school. Motivated partly by a desire for revenge against a schoolyard bully, he became the top-ranked student, distinguishing himself mainly by building
sundial A sundial is a horology, horological device that tells the time of day (referred to as civil time in modern usage) when direct sunlight shines by the position of the Sun, apparent position of the Sun in the sky. In the narrowest sense of the ...
s and models of windmills.


University of Cambridge

In June 1661, Newton was admitted to
Trinity College Trinity College may refer to: Australia * Trinity Anglican College, an Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican coeducational primary and secondary school in , New South Wales * Trinity Catholic College, Auburn, a coeducational school in the inner-w ...
at the
University of Cambridge The University of Cambridge is a Public university, public collegiate university, collegiate research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209 and granted a royal charter by Henry III of England, Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the world' ...
. His uncle Reverend William Ayscough, who had studied at Cambridge, recommended him to the university. At Cambridge, Newton started as a subsizar, paying his way by performing
valet A valet or varlet is a male Domestic worker, servant who serves as personal attendant to his employer. In the Middle Ages and Ancien Régime, valet de chambre was a role for junior courtiers and specialists such as artists in a royal court, bu ...
duties until he was awarded a scholarship in 1664, which covered his university costs for four more years until the completion of his MA. At the time, Cambridge's teachings were based on those of
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatet ...
, whom Newton read along with then more modern philosophers, including Descartes and
astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe astronomical objects such as stars, planets, natural satellite, moons, comets and galaxy, g ...
s such as
Galileo Galilei Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Commonly referred to as Galileo, his name was pronounced (, ). He was ...
and Thomas Street. He set down in his notebook a series of " ''Quaestiones''" about
mechanical philosophy The mechanical philosophy is a form of natural philosophy which compares the universe to a large-scale mechanism (i.e. a machine). The mechanical philosophy is associated with the scientific revolution of early modern Europe. One of the first expos ...
as he found it. In 1665, he discovered the generalised
binomial theorem In elementary algebra, the binomial theorem (or binomial expansion) describes the algebraic expansion of powers of a binomial. According to the theorem, it is possible to expand the polynomial into a sum involving terms of the form , where th ...
and began to develop a mathematical theory that later became
calculus Calculus, originally called infinitesimal calculus or "the calculus of infinitesimals", is the mathematics, mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape, and algebra is the study of generalizati ...
. Soon after Newton obtained his BA degree at Cambridge in August 1665, the university temporarily closed as a precaution against the Great Plague. Although he had been undistinguished as a Cambridge student, Newton's private studies at his home in Woolsthorpe over the next two years saw the development of his theories on calculus,
optics Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of optical instruments, instruments that use or Photodetector, detect it. Optics usually describes t ...
, and the law of gravitation. In April 1667, Newton returned to the University of Cambridge, and in October he was elected as a fellow of Trinity. Fellows were required to be ordained as priests, although this was not enforced in the restoration years and an assertion of conformity to the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church record ...
was sufficient. However, by 1675 the issue could not be avoided and by then his unconventional views stood in the way. Nevertheless, Newton managed to avoid it by means of special permission from Charles II. His academic work impressed the Lucasian professor
Isaac Barrow Isaac Barrow (October 1630 – 4 May 1677) was an English Christian theologian and mathematician who is generally given credit for his early role in the development of infinitesimal calculus; in particular, for proof of the fundamental theorem o ...
, who was anxious to develop his own religious and administrative potential (he became master of Trinity College two years later); in 1669, Newton succeeded him, only one year after receiving his MA. Newton was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1672.


Work


Calculus

Newton's work has been said "to distinctly advance every branch of mathematics then studied". His work on the subject, usually referred to as fluxions or calculus, seen in a manuscript of October 1666, is now published among Newton's mathematical papers. His work '' De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas'', sent by
Isaac Barrow Isaac Barrow (October 1630 – 4 May 1677) was an English Christian theologian and mathematician who is generally given credit for his early role in the development of infinitesimal calculus; in particular, for proof of the fundamental theorem o ...
to John Collins in June 1669, was identified by Barrow in a letter sent to Collins that August as the work "of an extraordinary genius and proficiency in these things". Newton later became involved in a dispute with
Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz . ( – 14 November 1716) was a German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist and diplomat. He is one of the most prominent figures in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathema ...
over priority in the development of calculus (the Leibniz–Newton calculus controversy). Most modern historians believe that Newton and Leibniz developed calculus independently, although with very different
mathematical notation Mathematical notation consists of using glossary of mathematical symbols, symbols for representing operation (mathematics), operations, unspecified numbers, relation (mathematics), relations and any other mathematical objects, and assembling the ...
s. 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", nowadays recognised as much more convenient notations, were adopted by continental European mathematicians, and after 1820 or so, also by British mathematicians. His work extensively uses calculus in geometric form based on limiting values of the ratios of vanishingly small quantities: in the ''Principia'' itself, Newton gave demonstration of this under the name of "the method of first and last ratios" and explained why he put his expositions in this form, remarking also that "hereby the same thing is performed as by the method of indivisibles." Because of this, the ''Principia'' has been called "a book dense with the theory and application of the infinitesimal calculus" in modern times and in Newton's time "nearly all of it is of this calculus." His use of methods involving "one or more orders of the infinitesimally small" is present in his ''De motu corporum in gyrum'' of 1684 and in his papers on motion "during the two decades preceding 1684". Newton had been reluctant to publish his calculus because he feared controversy and criticism. He was close to the Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier. In 1691, Duillier started to write a new version of Newton's ''Principia'', and corresponded with Leibniz. In 1693, the relationship between Duillier and Newton deteriorated and the book was never completed. Starting in 1699, other members of the
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, ...
accused Leibniz of plagiarism. The dispute then broke out in full force in 1711 when the Royal Society proclaimed in a study that it was Newton who was the true discoverer and labelled Leibniz a fraud; it was later found that Newton wrote the study's concluding remarks on Leibniz. Thus began the bitter controversy which marred the lives of both Newton and Leibniz until the latter's death in 1716. Newton is generally credited with the generalised binomial theorem, valid for any exponent. He discovered Newton's identities,
Newton's method In numerical analysis, Newton's method, also known as the Newton–Raphson method, named after Isaac Newton and Joseph Raphson, is a root-finding algorithm which produces successively better approximations to the roots (or zeroes) of a re ...
, classified
cubic plane curve In mathematics, a cubic plane curve is a plane algebraic curve defined by a cubic equation : applied to homogeneous coordinates for the projective plane; or the inhomogeneous version for the affine space determined by setting in such an equ ...
s ( polynomials of degree three in two variables), made substantial contributions to the theory of
finite differences A finite difference is a mathematical expression of the form . If a finite difference is divided by , one gets a difference quotient. The approximation of derivative In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes ...
, and was the first to use fractional indices and to employ
coordinate geometry In classical mathematics, analytic geometry, also known as coordinate geometry or Cartesian geometry, is the study of geometry using a coordinate system. This contrasts with synthetic geometry. Analytic geometry is used in physics and engineerin ...
to derive solutions to
Diophantine equations In mathematics, a Diophantine equation is an equation, typically a polynomial equation in two or more unknown (mathematics), unknowns with integer coefficients, such that the only equation solving, solutions of interest are the integer ones. A l ...
. He approximated partial sums of the harmonic series by
logarithms In mathematics, the logarithm is the inverse function to exponentiation. That means the logarithm of a number  to the base  is the exponent to which must be raised, to produce . For example, since , the ''logarithm base'' 10 of ...
(a precursor to Euler's summation formula) and was the first to use
power series In mathematics, a power series (in one variable (mathematics), variable) is an infinite series of the form \sum_^\infty a_n \left(x - c\right)^n = a_0 + a_1 (x - c) + a_2 (x - c)^2 + \dots where ''an'' represents the coefficient of the ''n''th te ...
with confidence and to revert power series. Newton's work on infinite series was inspired by
Simon Stevin Simon Stevin (; 1548–1620), sometimes called Stevinus, was a Flemish mathematician, scientist and music theorist. He made various contributions in many areas of science and engineering, both theoretical and practical. He also translated vario ...
's decimals. When Newton received his MA and became a Fellow of the "College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity" in 1667, he made the commitment that "I will either set Theology as the object of my studies and will take holy orders when the time prescribed by these statutes  yearsarrives, or I will resign from the college." Up until this point he had not thought much about religion and had twice signed his agreement to the
thirty-nine articles The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (commonly abbreviated as the Thirty-nine Articles or the XXXIX Articles) are the historically defining statements of doctrines and practices of the Church of England with respect to the controversies of the ...
, the basis of
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church record ...
doctrine. He was appointed
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics The Lucasian Chair of Mathematics () is a mathematics professorship in the University of Cambridge, England; its holder is known as the Lucasian Professor. The post was founded in 1663 by Henry Lucas (politician), Henry Lucas, who was Cambridge U ...
in 1669, on Barrow's recommendation. During that time, any Fellow of a college at Cambridge or Oxford was required to take holy orders and become an ordained
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, ...
priest. However, the terms of the Lucasian professorship required that the holder be active in the church – presumably, so as to have more time for science. Newton argued that this should exempt him from the ordination requirement, and Charles II, whose permission was needed, accepted this argument; thus, a conflict between Newton's religious views and Anglican orthodoxy was averted.


Optics

In 1666, Newton observed that the spectrum of colours exiting a prism in the position of minimum deviation is oblong, even when the light ray entering the prism is circular, which is to say, the prism refracts different colours by different angles. This led him to conclude that colour is a property intrinsic to light – a point which had, until then, been a matter of debate. From 1670 to 1672, Newton lectured on optics. During this period he investigated the
refraction In physics, refraction is the redirection of a wave as it passes from one transmission medium, medium to another. The redirection can be caused by the wave's change in speed or by a change in the medium. Refraction of light is the most common ...
of light, demonstrating that the multicoloured image produced by a prism, which he named a
spectrum A spectrum (plural ''spectra'' or ''spectrums'') is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary, without gaps, across a Continuum (measurement), continuum. The word was first used scientifically in optics to describ ...
, could be recomposed into white light by a
lens A lens is a transmissive optics, optical device which focuses or disperses a light beam by means of refraction. A simple lens consists of a single piece of transparent material, while a #Compound lenses, compound lens consists of several simp ...
and a second prism. Modern scholarship has revealed that Newton's analysis and resynthesis of white light owes a debt to corpuscular alchemy. He showed that coloured light does not change its properties by separating out a coloured beam and shining it on various objects, and that regardless of whether reflected, scattered, or transmitted, the light remains the same colour. Thus, he observed that colour is the result of objects interacting with already-coloured light rather than objects generating the colour themselves. This is known as Newton's theory of colour. From this work, he concluded that the lens of any
refracting telescope A refracting telescope (also called a refractor) is a type of optical telescope that uses a lens (optics), lens as its objective (optics), objective to form an image (also referred to a dioptrics, dioptric telescope). The refracting telescope d ...
would suffer from the dispersion of light into colours (
chromatic aberration In optics, chromatic aberration (CA), also called chromatic distortion and spherochromatism, is a failure of a lens (optics), lens to Focus (optics), focus all colors to the same point. It is caused by Dispersion (optics), dispersion: the refrac ...
). As a proof of the concept, he constructed a telescope using reflective mirrors instead of lenses as the objective to bypass that problem. Building the design, the first known functional reflecting telescope, today known as a Newtonian telescope, involved solving the problem of a suitable mirror material and shaping technique. Newton ground his own mirrors out of a custom composition of highly reflective speculum metal, using Newton's rings to judge the quality of the optics for his telescopes. In late 1668, he was able to produce this first reflecting telescope. It was about eight inches long and it gave a clearer and larger image. In 1671, the Royal Society asked for a demonstration of his reflecting telescope. Their interest encouraged him to publish his notes, ''Of Colours'', which he later expanded into the work ''
Opticks ''Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light'' is a book by English people, English natural philosopher Isaac Newton that was published in English language, English in 1704 (a scholarly Latin transl ...
''. When
Robert Hooke Robert Hooke Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS (; 18 July 16353 March 1703) was an English polymath active as a scientist, natural philosopher and architect, who is credited to be one of two scientists to discover microorganisms in 1665 using ...
criticised some of Newton's ideas, Newton was so offended that he withdrew from public debate. Newton and Hooke had brief exchanges in 1679–80, when Hooke, appointed to manage the Royal Society's correspondence, opened up a correspondence intended to elicit contributions from Newton to Royal Society transactions, which had the effect of stimulating Newton to work out a proof that the elliptical form of planetary orbits would result from a centripetal force inversely proportional to the square of the radius vector. But the two men remained generally on poor terms until Hooke's death. Newton argued that light is composed of particles or corpuscles, which were refracted by accelerating into a denser medium. He verged on soundlike waves to explain the repeated pattern of reflection and transmission by thin films (Opticks Bk.II, Props. 12), but still retained his theory of 'fits' that disposed corpuscles to be reflected or transmitted (Props.13). However, later physicists favoured a purely wavelike explanation of light to account for the interference patterns and the general phenomenon of
diffraction Diffraction is defined as the interference or bending of waves around the corners of an obstacle or through an aperture into the region of Umbra, penumbra and antumbra, geometrical shadow of the obstacle/aperture. The diffracting object or ape ...
. Today's
quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental Scientific theory, theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quantum physics including qua ...
,
photons A photon () is an elementary particle that is a quantum of the electromagnetic field, including electromagnetic radiation such as light and radio waves, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force. Photons are Massless particle, massless ...
, and the idea of
wave–particle duality Wave–particle duality is the concept in quantum mechanics that every particle or quantum entity may be described as either a particle or a wave. It expresses the inability of the classical physics, classical concepts "particle" or "wave" to fu ...
bear only a minor resemblance to Newton's understanding of light. In his ''Hypothesis of Light'' of 1675, Newton posited the existence of the
ether In organic chemistry, ethers are a class of organic compound, compounds that contain an ether functional group, group—an oxygen atom connected to two alkyl or aryl groups. They have the general formula , where R and R′ represent the alkyl o ...
to transmit forces between particles. The contact with the Cambridge Platonist philosopher
Henry More Henry More (; 12 October 1614 – 1 September 1687) was an English philosopher of the Cambridge Platonists, Cambridge Platonist school. Biography Henry was born in Grantham, Grantham, Lincolnshire on 12 October 1614. He was the seventh son o ...
revived his interest in alchemy. He replaced the ether with occult forces based on Hermetic ideas of attraction and repulsion between particles.
John Maynard Keynes John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, ( ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946), was an English economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in m ...
, who acquired many of Newton's writings on alchemy, stated that "Newton was not the first of the age of reason: He was the last of the magicians." Newton's contributions to science cannot be isolated from his interest in alchemy. This was at a time when there was no clear distinction between alchemy and science, and had he not relied on the
occult The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of esoteric supernatural Supernatural refers to phenomena or entities that are beyond the laws of nature. The term is derived from Medieval Latin , from Latin (above, beyond, or outside ...
idea of
action at a distance In physics, action at a distance is the concept that an object can be affected without being physically touched (as in Contact mechanics, mechanical contact) by another object. That is, it is the non-local interaction of objects that are separat ...
, across a vacuum, he might not have developed his theory of gravity. In 1704, Newton published ''
Opticks ''Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light'' is a book by English people, English natural philosopher Isaac Newton that was published in English language, English in 1704 (a scholarly Latin transl ...
'', in which he expounded his corpuscular theory of light. He considered light to be made up of extremely subtle corpuscles, that ordinary matter was made of grosser corpuscles and speculated that through a kind of alchemical transmutation "Are not gross Bodies and Light convertible into one another, ... and may not Bodies receive much of their Activity from the Particles of Light which enter their Composition?" Newton also constructed a primitive form of a frictional
electrostatic generator An electrostatic generator, or electrostatic machine, is an electrical generator In electricity generation, a generator is a device that converts motive power (mechanical energy) or fuel-based power (chemical energy) into electric power for us ...
, using a glass globe. In his book ''Opticks'', Newton was the first to show a diagram using a prism as a beam expander, and also the use of multiple-prism arrays. Some 278 years after Newton's discussion, multiple-prism beam expanders became central to the development of narrow-linewidth
tunable laser A tunable laser is a laser whose wavelength of operation can be altered in a controlled manner. While all active laser medium, laser gain media allow small shifts in output wavelength, only a few types of lasers allow continuous tuning over a signi ...
s. Also, the use of these prismatic beam expanders led to the multiple-prism dispersion theory. Subsequent to Newton, much has been amended. Young and Fresnel discarded Newton's particle theory in favour of Huygens' wave theory to show that colour is the visible manifestation of light's wavelength. Science also slowly came to realise the difference between perception of colour and mathematisable optics. The German poet and scientist,
Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German people, German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, politician, statesman, theatre director, and critic. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe bibliography, His works include pla ...
, could not shake the Newtonian foundation but "one hole Goethe did find in Newton's armour, ... Newton had committed himself to the doctrine that refraction without colour was impossible. He, therefore, thought that the object-glasses of telescopes must forever remain imperfect, achromatism and refraction being incompatible. This inference was proved by Dollond to be wrong."


Gravity

In 1679, Newton returned to his work on
celestial mechanics Celestial mechanics is the branch of astronomy Astronomy () is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and chronol ...
by considering gravitation and its effect on the orbits of
planet A planet is a large, rounded Astronomical object, astronomical body that is neither a star nor its Stellar remnant, remnant. The best available theory of planet formation is the nebular hypothesis, which posits that an interstellar cloud colla ...
s with reference to
Kepler's laws In astronomy, Kepler's laws of planetary motion, published by Johannes Kepler between 1609 and 1619, describe the Kepler orbit, orbits of planets around the Sun. The scientific law, laws modified the Copernican heliocentrism, heliocentric theor ...
of planetary motion. This followed stimulation by a brief exchange of letters in 1679–80 with Hooke, who had been appointed to manage the Royal Society's correspondence, and who opened a correspondence intended to elicit contributions from Newton to Royal Society transactions. Newton's reawakening interest in astronomical matters received further stimulus by the appearance of a comet in the winter of 1680–1681, on which he corresponded with
John Flamsteed John Flamsteed (19 August 1646 – 31 December 1719) was an English astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal. His main achievements were the preparation of a 3,000-star catalogue, ''Catalogus Britannicus'', and a star atlas called ''Atlas Coe ...
. After the exchanges with Hooke, Newton worked out a proof that the elliptical form of planetary orbits would result from a centripetal force inversely proportional to the square of the radius vector. Newton communicated his results to
Edmond Halley Edmond (or Edmund) Halley (; – ) was an English astronomer, mathematician and physicist. He was the second Astronomer Royal in Britain, succeeding John Flamsteed in 1720. From an observatory he constructed on Saint Helena in 1676–77, Hal ...
and to the Royal Society in '' De motu corporum in gyrum'', a tract written on about nine sheets which was copied into the Royal Society's Register Book in December 1684. This tract contained the nucleus that Newton developed and expanded to form the ''Principia''. The '' Principia'' was published on 5 July 1687 with encouragement and financial help from Halley. In this work, Newton stated the three universal laws of motion. Together, these laws describe the relationship between any object, the forces acting upon it and the resulting motion, laying the foundation for
classical mechanics Classical mechanics is a Theoretical physics, physical theory describing the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of Machine (mechanical), machinery, and astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galax ...
. They contributed to many advances during the
Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States, that occurred during the period from around 1760 to about 1820–1840. This transition included going fr ...
which soon followed and were not improved upon for more than 200 years. Many of these advances continue to be the underpinnings of non-relativistic technologies in the modern world. He used the Latin word ''gravitas'' (weight) for the effect that would become known as
gravity In physics, gravity () is a fundamental interaction which causes mutual attraction between all things with mass or energy. Gravity is, by far, the weakest of the four fundamental interactions, approximately 1038 times weaker than the strong ...
, and defined the law of
universal gravitation Newton's law of universal gravitation is usually stated as that every particle attracts every other particle in the universe with a force that is Proportionality (mathematics)#Direct proportionality, proportional to the product of their masses an ...
. In the same work, Newton presented a calculus-like method of geometrical analysis using 'first and last ratios', gave the first analytical determination (based on
Boyle's law Boyle's law, also referred to as the Boyle–Mariotte law, or Mariotte's law (especially in France), is an experimental gas laws, gas law that describes the relationship between pressure and volume of a confined gas. Boyle's law has been stated ...
) of the speed of sound in air, inferred the oblateness of Earth's spheroidal figure, accounted for the precession of the equinoxes as a result of the Moon's gravitational attraction on the Earth's oblateness, initiated the gravitational study of the irregularities in the motion of the Moon, provided a theory for the determination of the orbits of comets, and much more. Newton made clear his
heliocentric Heliocentrism (also known as the Heliocentric model) is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the center of the universe. Historically, heliocentrism was opposed to Geocentric model, geocentrism, which p ...
view of the Solar System—developed in a somewhat modern way because already in the mid-1680s he recognised the "deviation of the Sun" from the centre of gravity of the Solar System. For Newton, it was not precisely the centre of the Sun or any other body that could be considered at rest, but rather "the common centre of gravity of the Earth, the Sun and all the Planets is to be esteem'd the Centre of the World", and this centre of gravity "either is at rest or moves uniformly forward in a right line" (Newton adopted the "at rest" alternative in view of common consent that the centre, wherever it was, was at rest). Newton's postulate of an invisible force able to act over vast distances led to him being criticised for introducing "
occult The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of esoteric supernatural Supernatural refers to phenomena or entities that are beyond the laws of nature. The term is derived from Medieval Latin , from Latin (above, beyond, or outside ...
agencies" into science. Later, in the second edition of the ''Principia'' (1713), Newton firmly rejected such criticisms in a concluding General Scholium, writing that 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. (Here Newton used what became his famous expression ''"hypotheses non-fingo"''). With the ''Principia'', Newton became internationally recognised. He acquired a circle of admirers, including the Swiss-born mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier. In 1710, Newton found 72 of the 78 "species" of cubic curves and categorised them into four types. In 1717, and probably with Newton's help, James Stirling proved that every cubic was one of these four types. Newton also claimed that the four types could be obtained by plane projection from one of them, and this was proved in 1731, four years after his death.


Later life


Royal Mint

In the 1690s, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal and symbolic interpretation of the Bible. A manuscript Newton sent to
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "father of liberalism ...
in which he disputed the fidelity of 1 John 5:7—the Johannine Comma—and its fidelity to the original manuscripts of the New Testament, remained unpublished until 1785. Newton was also a member of the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the 13th century until 1707 when it was replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain. Parliament evolved from the great council of bishops and peers that advis ...
for
Cambridge University The University of Cambridge is a Public university, public collegiate university, collegiate research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209 and granted a royal charter by Henry III of England, Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the world' ...
in 1689 and 1701, but according to some accounts his only comments were to complain about a cold draught in the chamber and request that the window be closed. He was, however, noted by Cambridge diarist Abraham de la Pryme to have rebuked students who were frightening locals by claiming that a house was haunted. Newton moved to London to take up the post of warden of the
Royal Mint The Royal Mint is the United Kingdom's oldest company and the official maker of British coins. Operating under the legal name The Royal Mint Limited, it is a limited company that is wholly owned by HM Treasury, His Majesty's Treasury and is un ...
in 1696, a position that he had obtained through the patronage of Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, then
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of HM Treasury, His Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Great Offices of State, the Ch ...
. He took charge of England's great recoining, trod on the toes of Lord Lucas, Governor of the Tower, and secured the job of deputy
comptroller A comptroller (pronounced either the same as ''controller'' or as ) is a management-level position responsible for supervising the quality of accountancy, accounting and financial reporting of an organization. A financial comptroller is a senior- ...
of the temporary Chester branch for Edmond Halley. Newton became perhaps the best-known
Master of the Mint Master of the Mint is a title within the Royal Mint given to the most senior person responsible for its operation. It was an important office in the governments of Kingdom of Scotland, Scotland and Kingdom of England, England, and later Kingdom of ...
upon the death of
Thomas Neale Thomas Neale (1641–1699) was an English project-manager and politician who was also the first person to hold a position equivalent to postmaster-general of the North American colonies. Neale was a Member of Parliament for thirty years, Maste ...
in 1699, a position Newton held for the last 30 years of his life. These appointments were intended as
sinecure A sinecure ( or ; from the Latin , 'without', and , 'care') is an office, carrying a salary or otherwise generating income, that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service. The term originated in the medieval chu ...
s, but Newton took them seriously. He retired from his Cambridge duties in 1701, and exercised his authority to reform the currency and punish clippers and counterfeiters. As Warden, and afterwards as Master, of the Royal Mint, Newton estimated that 20 percent of the coins taken in during the Great Recoinage of 1696 were
counterfeit To counterfeit means to imitate something authentic, with the intent to steal, destroy, or replace the original, for use in illegal transactions, or otherwise to deceive individuals into believing that the fake is of equal or greater value tha ...
. Counterfeiting was
high treason Treason is the crime of attacking a state authority to which one owes allegiance. This typically includes acts such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplo ...
, punishable by the felon being
hanged, drawn and quartered To be hanged, drawn and quartered became a statutory penalty for men convicted of high treason in the Kingdom of England from 1352 under Edward III of England, King Edward III (1327–1377), although similar rituals are recorded during the rei ...
. Despite this, convicting even the most flagrant criminals could be extremely difficult, but Newton proved 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 English law is the common law list of national legal systems, legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly English criminal law, criminal law and Civil law (common law), civil law, each branch having its own Courts of England and Wales, ...
still had ancient and formidable customs of authority. Newton had himself made a
justice of the peace A justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or ''puisne'' court, elected or appointed by means of a commission (letters patent) to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the same ...
in all the
home counties The home counties are the counties of England that surround London. The counties are not precisely defined but Buckinghamshire and Surrey are usually included in definitions and Berkshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent are also often included ...
. A draft letter regarding the matter is included in Newton's personal first edition of ''Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica'', which he must have been amending at the time. Then he conducted more than 100 cross-examinations of witnesses, informers, and suspects between June 1698 and Christmas 1699. Newton successfully prosecuted 28 coiners. Newton was made president of the
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, ...
in 1703 and an associate of the French Académie des Sciences. In his position at the Royal Society, Newton made an enemy of
John Flamsteed John Flamsteed (19 August 1646 – 31 December 1719) was an English astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal. His main achievements were the preparation of a 3,000-star catalogue, ''Catalogus Britannicus'', and a star atlas called ''Atlas Coe ...
, the Astronomer Royal, by prematurely publishing Flamsteed's ''Historia Coelestis Britannica'', which Newton had used in his studies.


Knighthood

In April 1705, Queen Anne knighted Newton during a royal visit to Trinity College, Cambridge. The knighthood is likely to have been motivated by political considerations connected with the parliamentary election in May 1705, rather than any recognition of Newton's scientific work or services as Master of the Mint. Newton was the second scientist to be knighted, after
Francis Bacon Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England England is a Countries of ...
. As a result of a report written by Newton on 21 September 1717 to the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury, the bimetallic relationship between gold coins and silver coins was changed by royal proclamation on 22 December 1717, forbidding the exchange of gold guineas for more than 21 silver shillings. This inadvertently resulted in a silver shortage as silver coins were used to pay for imports, while exports were paid for in gold, effectively moving Britain from the
silver standard The silver standard is a monetary system in which the standard economics, economic unit of account is a fixed weight of silver. Silver was far more widespread than gold as the monetary standard worldwide, from the Sumerians 3000 BC until 1873. ...
to its first
gold standard A gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is based on a fixed quantity of gold. The gold standard was the basis for the international monetary system from the 1870s to the early 1920s, and from th ...
. It is a matter of debate as to whether he intended to do this or not. It has been argued that Newton conceived of his work at the Mint as a continuation of his alchemical work. Newton was invested in the
South Sea Company The South Sea Company (officially The Governor and Company of the merchants of Great Britain, trading to the South Seas and other parts of America, and for the encouragement of the Fishery) was a British joint-stock company founded in Ja ...
and lost some £20,000 (£4.4 million in 2020) when it collapsed in around 1720. Toward the end of his life, Newton took up residence at Cranbury Park, near
Winchester Winchester is a City status in the United Kingdom, cathedral city in Hampshire, England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester, a local government Districts of England, district, at the western end of the South Downs Nation ...
, with his niece and her husband, until his death. His half-niece, Catherine Barton, served as his hostess in social affairs at his house on
Jermyn Street Jermyn Street is a One-way traffic, one-way street in the St James's area of the City of Westminster in London, England. It is to the south of, parallel, and adjacent to Piccadilly. Jermyn Street is known as a street for gentlemen's-clothing r ...
in London; he was her "very loving Uncle", according to his letter to her when she was recovering from
smallpox Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by variola virus (often called smallpox virus) which belongs to the genus Orthopoxvirus. The Ali Maow Maalin#Maalin's case, last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977, and the World ...
.


Death

Newton died in his sleep in London on 20 March 1727 ( OS 20 March 1726; NS 31 March 1727). He was given a ceremonial funeral, attended by nobles, scientists, and philosophers, and was buried in
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is an historic, mainly Gothic architecture, Gothic Church (building), church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of ...
among kings and queens. He is also the first scientist to be buried in the abbey.
Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (; 21 November 169430 May 1778) was a French Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher. Known by his ''Pen name, nom de plume'' M. de Voltaire (; also ; ), he was famous for his wit, and his ...
may have been present at his funeral. A bachelor, he had divested much of his estate to relatives during his last years, and died
intestate Intestacy is the condition of the estate (law), estate of a person who dies without having in force a valid Will and testament, will or other binding declaration. Alternatively this may also apply where a will or declaration has been made, but ...
. His papers went to John Conduitt and Catherine Barton. After his death, Newton's hair was examined and found to contain mercury, probably resulting from his alchemical pursuits.
Mercury poisoning Mercury poisoning is a type of metal poisoning due to exposure to mercury. Symptoms depend upon the type, dose, method, and duration of exposure. They may include muscle weakness, poor coordination, numbness in the hands and feet, skin rash ...
could explain Newton's eccentricity in late life.


Personality

Although it was claimed that he was once engaged, Newton never married. The French writer and philosopher
Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (; 21 November 169430 May 1778) was a French Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher. Known by his ''Pen name, nom de plume'' M. de Voltaire (; also ; ), he was famous for his wit, and his ...
, who was in London at the time of Newton's funeral, said that he "was never sensible to any passion, was not subject to the common frailties of mankind, nor had any commerce with women—a circumstance which was assured me by the physician and surgeon who attended him in his last moments". There exists a widespread belief that Newton died a
virgin Virginity is the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. The term ''virgin'' originally only referred to sexually inexperienced women, but has evolved to encompass a range of definitions, as found in traditional, modern ...
, and writers as diverse as mathematician Charles Hutton, economist
John Maynard Keynes John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, ( ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946), was an English economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in m ...
, and physicist Carl Sagan each have commented on it. Newton had a close friendship with the Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, who he met in London around 1689—some of their correspondence has survived. Their relationship came to an abrupt and unexplained end in 1693, and at the same time Newton suffered a nervous breakdown, which included sending wild accusatory letters to his friends Samuel Pepys and
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "father of liberalism ...
. His note to the latter included the charge that Locke "endeavoured to embroil me with woemen". Newton was relatively modest about his achievements, writing in a letter to
Robert Hooke Robert Hooke Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS (; 18 July 16353 March 1703) was an English polymath active as a scientist, natural philosopher and architect, who is credited to be one of two scientists to discover microorganisms in 1665 using ...
in February 1676, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Two writers think that the sentence, written at a time when Newton and Hooke were in dispute over optical discoveries, was an oblique attack on Hooke (said to have been short and hunchbacked), rather than—or in addition to—a statement of modesty. On the other hand, the widely known proverb about standing on the shoulders of giants, published among others by seventeenth-century poet George Herbert (a former orator of the University of Cambridge and fellow of Trinity College) in his ''Jacula Prudentum'' (1651), had as its main point that "a dwarf on a giant's shoulders sees farther of the two", and so its effect as an analogy would place Newton himself rather than Hooke as the 'dwarf'. In a later memoir, Newton wrote, "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 sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." In 2015, Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, called Newton "a nasty antagonist" and "a bad man to have as an enemy", noting Newton's attitude towards Robert Hooke and
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz . ( – 14 November 1716) was a German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist and diplomat. He is one of the most prominent figures in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathema ...
. It has been suggested by some scientists and clinicians that, based on these and other traits along with his profound power of concentration, that Newton may have had an undiagnosed form of high-functioning autism, now known as Asperger syndrome.


Theology


Religious views

Although born into an
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, ...
family, by his thirties Newton held a Christian faith that, had it been made public, would not have been considered orthodox by mainstream Christianity,Richard S. Westfall – Indiana University with one historian labelling him a heresy, heretic. By 1672, he had started to record his theological researches in notebooks which he showed to no one and which have only recently been examined. They demonstrate an extensive knowledge of Early Christianity, early Church writings and show that in the conflict between Athanasius and Arius which defined the Athanasian Creed, Creed, he took the side of Arius, the loser, who rejected the conventional view of the
Trinity The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (, from 'threefold') is the central dogma concerning the nature of God in most Christian churches, which defines one God existing in three coequal, coeternal, consubstantial divine persons: God t ...
. Newton "recognized Christ as a divine mediator between God and man, who was subordinate to the Father who created him." He was especially interested in prophecy, but for him, "the great apostasy was trinitarianism." Newton tried unsuccessfully to obtain one of the two fellowships that exempted the holder from the ordination requirement. At the last moment in 1675 he received a dispensation from the government that excused him and all future holders of the Lucasian chair. In Newton's eyes, worshipping Jesus, Christ as God in Christianity, God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin. In 1999, historian Stephen Snobelen, Stephen D. Snobelen wrote, "Isaac Newton was a heresy, heretic. But ... he never made a public declaration of his private faith—which the orthodox would have deemed extremely radical. He hid his faith so well that scholars are still unraveling his personal beliefs." Snobelen concludes that Newton was at least a Socinian sympathiser (he owned and had thoroughly read at least eight Socinian books), possibly an Arianism, Arian and almost certainly an anti-trinitarian. The view that Newton was Semi-Arian has lost support now that scholars have investigated Newton's theological papers, and now most scholars identify Newton as an Nontrinitarianism, Antitrinitarian monotheist. Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became Newton's best-known discoveries, he warned against using them to view the Universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He said, "So then gravity may put the planets into motion, but without the Divine Power it could never put them into such a circulating motion, as they have about the sun". 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'' and ''s:Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John''. He placed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at 3 April, AD 33, which agrees with one traditionally accepted date. He believed in a rationally immanent world, but he rejected the hylozoism implicit in
Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz . ( – 14 November 1716) was a German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist and diplomat. He is one of the most prominent figures in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathema ...
and Baruch Spinoza. The ordered and dynamically informed Universe could be understood, and must be understood, by an active reason. In his correspondence, 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". He 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". 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 Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, famous correspondence. A century later, Pierre-Simon Laplace's work Traité de mécanique céleste, ''Celestial Mechanics'' had a natural explanation for why the planet orbits do not require periodic divine intervention. The contrast between Laplace's mechanistic worldview and Newton's one is the most strident considering the famous answer which the French scientist gave Napoleon, who had criticised him for the absence of the Creator in the ''Mécanique céleste'': "Sire, j'ai pu me passer de cette hypothèse" ("Sir, I didn't need this hypothesis"). Scholars long debated whether Newton disputed the doctrine of the
Trinity The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (, from 'threefold') is the central dogma concerning the nature of God in most Christian churches, which defines one God existing in three coequal, coeternal, consubstantial divine persons: God t ...
. His first biographer, David Brewster, who compiled his manuscripts, interpreted Newton as questioning the veracity of some passages used to support the Trinity, but never denying the doctrine of the Trinity as such. In the twentieth century, encrypted manuscripts written by Newton and bought by
John Maynard Keynes John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, ( ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946), was an English economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in m ...
(among others) were deciphered and it became known that Newton did indeed reject Trinitarianism.


Religious thought

Newton and Robert Boyle's approach to the
mechanical philosophy The mechanical philosophy is a form of natural philosophy which compares the universe to a large-scale mechanism (i.e. a machine). The mechanical philosophy is associated with the scientific revolution of early modern Europe. One of the first expos ...
was promoted by rationalist pamphleteers as a viable alternative to the pantheism, pantheists and enthusiasm, enthusiasts, and was accepted hesitantly by orthodox preachers as well as dissident preachers like the latitudinarians. The clarity and simplicity of science was seen as a way to combat the emotional and metaphysics, metaphysical superlatives of both superstition, superstitious enthusiasm and the threat of atheism, and at the same time, the second wave of English deism, deists used Newton's discoveries to demonstrate the possibility of a "Natural Religion". The attacks made against pre- Enlightenment "magical thinking", and the Christian mysticism, mystical elements of Christianity, were given their foundation with Boyle's mechanical conception of the universe. Newton gave Boyle's ideas their completion through mathematical proofs and, perhaps more importantly, was very successful in popularising them.


The occult

In a manuscript he wrote in 1704 (never intended to be published), he mentions the date of 2060, but it is not given as a date for the end of days. It has been falsely reported as a prediction. The passage is clear when the date is read in context. He was against date setting for the end of days, concerned that this would put Christianity into disrepute.


Alchemy

In the character of Morton Opperly in "Poor Superman" (1951), speculative fiction author Fritz Leiber says of Newton, "Everyone knows Newton as the great scientist. Few remember that he spent half his life muddling with alchemy, looking for the philosopher's stone. That was the pebble by the seashore he really wanted to find." Of an estimated ten million words of writing in Newton's papers, about one million deal with
alchemy Alchemy (from Arabic: ''al-kīmiyā''; from Ancient Greek: χυμεία, ''khumeía'') is an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscience, protoscientific tradition that was historically practiced in Chinese alchemy, C ...
. Many of Newton's writings on alchemy are copies of other manuscripts, with his own annotations. Alchemical texts mix artisanal knowledge with philosophical speculation, often hidden behind layers of wordplay, allegory, and imagery to protect craft secrets. Some of the content contained in Newton's papers could have been considered heretical by the church. In 1888, after spending sixteen years cataloguing Newton's papers, Cambridge University kept a small number and returned the rest to the Earl of Portsmouth. In 1936, a descendant offered the papers for sale at Sotheby's. The collection was broken up and sold for a total of about £9,000.
John Maynard Keynes John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, ( ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946), was an English economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in m ...
was one of about three dozen bidders who obtained part of the collection at auction. Keynes went on to reassemble an estimated half of Newton's collection of papers on alchemy before donating his collection to Cambridge University in 1946. All of Newton's known writings on alchemy are currently being put online in a project undertaken by Indiana University: "The Chymistry of Isaac Newton" and summarised in a book. Charles Coulston Gillispie disputes that Newton ever practised alchemy, saying that "his chemistry was in the spirit of Boyle's corpuscular philosophy." In June 2020, two unpublished pages of Newton's notes on Jan Baptist van Helmont's book on plague, ''De Peste'', were being auctioned online by Bonhams. Newton's analysis of this book, which he made in Cambridge while protecting himself from London's 1665–1666 Great Plague of London, infection, is the most substantial written statement he is known to have made about the plague, according to Bonhams. As far as the therapy is concerned, Newton writes that "the best is a toad suspended by the legs in a chimney for three days, which at last vomited up earth with various insects in it, on to a dish of yellow wax, and shortly after died. Combining powdered toad with the excretions and serum made into lozenges and worn about the affected area drove away the contagion and drew out the poison".


Legacy


Fame

The mathematician Joseph Louis Lagrange, Joseph-Louis Lagrange 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." English poet Alexander Pope wrote the famous epitaph: But this was not allowed to be inscribed in the monument. The epitaph in the monument is as follows: which can be translated as follows: In a 2005 survey of members of Britain's
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, ...
(formerly headed by Newton) asking who had the greater effect on the history of science, Newton or Albert Einstein, the members deemed Newton to have made the greater overall contribution. In 1999, an opinion poll of 100 of the day's leading physicists voted Einstein the "greatest physicist ever," with Newton the runner-up, while a parallel survey of rank-and-file physicists by the site PhysicsWeb gave the top spot to Newton. Einstein kept a picture of Newton on his study wall alongside ones of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. The SI derived unit of force is named the Newton (unit), newton in his honour. Woolsthorpe Manor is a Grade I listed building by Historic England through being his birthplace and "where he discovered gravity and developed his theories regarding the refraction of light". In 1816, a tooth said to have belonged to Newton was sold for £730 (3,633) in London to an aristocrat who had it set in a ring. ''Guinness World Records 2002'' classified it as the most valuable tooth, which would value approximately £25,000 (35,700) in late 2001. Who bought it and who currently has it has not been disclosed.


Apple incident

Newton himself often told the story that he was inspired to formulate his theory of gravitation by watching the fall of an apple from a tree. The story is believed to have passed into popular knowledge after being related by Catherine Barton, Newton's niece, to
Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (; 21 November 169430 May 1778) was a French Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher. Known by his ''Pen name, nom de plume'' M. de Voltaire (; also ; ), he was famous for his wit, and his ...
. Voltaire then wrote in his ''Essay on Epic Poetry'' (1727), "Sir Isaac Newton walking in his gardens, had the first thought of his system of gravitation, upon seeing an apple falling from a tree." Although it has been said that the apple story is a myth and that he did not arrive at his theory of gravity at any single moment, acquaintances of Newton (such as William Stukeley, whose manuscript account of 1752 has been made available by the Royal Society) do in fact confirm the incident, though not the apocryphal version that the apple actually hit Newton's head. Stukeley recorded in his ''Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life'' a conversation with Newton in Kensington on 15 April 1726: John Conduitt, Newton's assistant at the Royal Mint and husband of Newton's niece, also described the event when he wrote about Newton's life: It is known from his notebooks that Newton was grappling in the late 1660s with the idea that terrestrial gravity extends, in an inverse-square proportion, to the Moon; however, it took him two decades to develop the full-fledged theory. The question was not whether gravity existed, but whether it extended so far from Earth that it could also be the force holding the Moon to its orbit. Newton showed that if the force decreased as the inverse square of the distance, one could indeed calculate the Moon's orbital period, and get good agreement. He guessed the same force was responsible for other orbital motions, and hence named it "universal gravitation". Various trees are claimed to be "the" apple tree which Newton describes. The King's School, Grantham claims that the tree was purchased by the school, uprooted and transported to the headmaster's garden some years later. The staff of the (now) National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, National Trust-owned Woolsthorpe Manor dispute this, and claim that a tree present in their gardens is the one described by Newton. A descendant of the original tree can be seen growing outside the main gate of Trinity College, Cambridge, below the room Newton lived in when he studied there. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent can supply grafts from their tree, which appears identical to Flower of Kent, a coarse-fleshed cooking variety.


Commemorations

Newton's monument (1731) can be seen in
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is an historic, mainly Gothic architecture, Gothic Church (building), church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of ...
, at the north of the entrance to the choir against the choir screen, near his tomb. It was executed by the sculptor Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770) in white and grey marble with design by the architect William Kent. The monument features a figure of Newton reclining on top of a sarcophagus, his right elbow resting on several of his great books and his left hand pointing to a scroll with a mathematical design. Above him is a pyramid and a celestial globe showing the signs of the Zodiac and the path of the comet of 1680. A relief panel depicts putti using instruments such as a telescope and prism. The Latin inscription on the base translates as: From 1978 until 1988, an image of Newton designed by Harry Ecclestone appeared on Series D £1 banknotes of the pound sterling, banknotes issued by the Bank of England (the last £1 notes to be issued by the Bank of England). Newton was shown on the reverse of the notes holding a book and accompanied by a telescope, a prism and a map of the
Solar System The Solar SystemCapitalization of the name varies. The International Astronomical Union, the authoritative body regarding astronomical nomenclature, specifies capitalizing the names of all individual astronomical objects but uses mixed "Solar S ...
. A statue of Isaac Newton, looking at an apple at his feet, can be seen at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. A large bronze statue, ''Newton, after William Blake'', by Eduardo Paolozzi, dated 1995 and inspired by William Blake, Blake's Newton (Blake), etching, dominates the piazza of the British Library in London. A bronze statue of Newton was erected in 1858 in the centre of
Grantham Grantham () is a market and industrial town in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England, situated on the banks of the River Witham and bounded to the west by the A1 road (Great Britain), A1 road. It lies some 23 miles (37 km) s ...
where he went to school, prominently standing in front of Grantham Guildhall. The still-surviving farmhouse at Woolsthorpe By Colsterworth is a Grade I listed building by Historic England through being his birthplace and "where he discovered gravity and developed his theories regarding the refraction of light".


The Enlightenment

Enlightenment philosophers chose a short history of scientific predecessors—Galileo, Boyle, and Newton principally—as the guides and guarantors of their applications of the singular concept of nature and natural law to every physical and social field of the day. In this respect, the lessons of history and the social structures built upon it could be discarded. It is held by European philosophers of the Enlightenment and by historians of the Enlightenment that Newton's publication of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, ''Principia'' was a turning point in the Scientific Revolution and started the Enlightenment. It was Newton's conception of the universe based upon natural and rationally understandable laws that became one of the seeds for Enlightenment ideology. Locke and
Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (; 21 November 169430 May 1778) was a French Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher. Known by his ''Pen name, nom de plume'' M. de Voltaire (; also ; ), he was famous for his wit, and his ...
applied concepts of natural law to political systems advocating intrinsic rights; the physiocrats and Adam Smith applied natural conceptions of psychology and self-interest to economic systems; and sociology, sociologists criticised the current social order for trying to fit history into natural models of progress (history), progress. Monboddo and Samuel Clarke resisted elements of Newton's work, but eventually rationalised it to conform with their strong religious views of nature.


Works


Published in his lifetime

* '' De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas'' (1669, published 1711) * ''Of Natures Obvious Laws & Processes in Vegetation'' (unpublished, c. 1671–75) * '' De motu corporum in gyrum'' (1684) * ''Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica'' (1687) * ''Newton scale, Scala graduum Caloris. Calorum Descriptiones & signa'' (1701) * ''
Opticks ''Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light'' is a book by English people, English natural philosopher Isaac Newton that was published in English language, English in 1704 (a scholarly Latin transl ...
'' (1704) * ''Reports as Master of the Mint'' (1701–1725) * ''Arithmetica Universalis'' (1707)


Published posthumously

* ''De mundi systemate'' (''The System of the World'') (1728) * ''Optical Lectures'' (1728) * ''The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended'' (1728) * ''Observations on Daniel and The Apocalypse of St. John'' (1733) * ''Method of Fluxions'' (1671, published 1736) * ''An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture'' (1754)


See also

* ''Elements of the Philosophy of Newton'', a book by Voltaire * List of multiple discoveries#17th century, List of multiple discoveries: seventeenth century * List of things named after Isaac Newton


References


Notes


Citations


Bibliography

* * This well documented work provides, in particular, valuable information regarding Newton's knowledge of Patristics * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading


Primary

* Newton, Isaac. ''The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.'' University of California Press, (1999) ** Brackenridge, J. Bruce. ''The Key to Newton's Dynamics: The Kepler Problem and the Principia: Containing an English Translation of Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Book One from the First (1687) Edition of Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy'', University of California Press (1996) * Newton, Isaac. ''The Optical Papers of Isaac Newton. Vol. 1: The Optical Lectures, 1670–1672'', Cambridge University Press (1984) ** Newton, Isaac. ''Opticks'' (4th ed. 1730
online edition
** Newton, I. (1952). Opticks, or A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections & Colours of Light. New York: Dover Publications. * Newton, I. ''Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World'', tr. A. Motte, rev. Florian Cajori. Berkeley: University of California Press (1934) *  – 8 volumes. * Newton, Isaac. ''The correspondence of Isaac Newton,'' ed. H.W. Turnbull and others, 7 vols (1959–77) * ''Newton's Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings'' edited by H.S. Thayer (1953; online edition) * Isaac Newton, Sir; J Edleston; Roger Cotes, ''Correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Cotes, including letters of other eminent men'', London, John W. Parker, West Strand; Cambridge, John Deighton (1850, Google Books) * Maclaurin, C. (1748). An Account of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophical Discoveries, in Four Books. London: A. Millar and J. Nourse * Newton, I. (1958). Isaac Newton's Papers and Letters on Natural Philosophy and Related Documents, eds. I.B. Cohen and R.E. Schofield. Cambridge: Harvard University Press * Newton, I. (1962). The Unpublished Scientific Papers of Isaac Newton: A Selection from the Portsmouth Collection in the University Library, Cambridge, ed. A.R. Hall and M.B. Hall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press * Newton, I. (1975). Isaac Newton's 'Theory of the Moon's Motion' (1702). London: Dawson


Alchemy

* * *  – Preface by Albert Einstein. Reprinted by Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York (1972) * * Keynes took a close interest in Newton and owned many of Newton's private papers. * (edited by A.H. White; originally published in 1752) * Trabue, J. "Ann and Arthur Storer of Calvert County, Maryland, Friends of Sir Isaac Newton," ''The American Genealogist'' 79 (2004): 13–27.


Religion

* Dobbs, Betty Jo Tetter. ''The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton's Thought.'' (1991), links the alchemy to Arianism * Force, James E., and Richard H. Popkin, eds. ''Newton and Religion: Context, Nature, and Influence.'' (1999), pp. xvii, 325.; 13 papers by scholars using newly opened manuscripts * * * *


Science

* * Berlinski, David. ''Newton's Gift: How Sir Isaac Newton Unlocked the System of the World.'' (2000); * * Cohen, I. Bernard and Smith, George E., ed. ''The Cambridge Companion to Newton.'' (2002). Focuses on philosophical issues only; excerpt and text search; complete edition online * * * * Stephen Hawking, Hawking, Stephen, ed. ''On the Shoulders of Giants''. Places selections from Newton's ''Principia'' in the context of selected writings by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Einstein * * Newton, Isaac. ''Papers and Letters in Natural Philosophy'', edited by I. Bernard Cohen. Harvard University Press, 1958, 1978; . * * *


External links


Enlightening Science digital project
Texts of his papers, "Popularisations" and podcasts at the Newton Project * *


Writings by Newton


Newton's works – full texts, at the Newton Project

Newton's papers in the Royal Society's archives

The Newton Manuscripts at the National Library of Israel – the collection of all his religious writings
* * *
"Newton Papers"
nbsp;– Cambridge Digital Library {{DEFAULTSORT:Newton, Isaac Isaac Newton, 1642 births 1727 deaths 17th-century alchemists 17th-century apocalypticists 17th-century English astronomers 17th-century English mathematicians 17th-century English male writers 17th-century English writers 17th-century Latin-language writers 18th-century alchemists 18th-century apocalypticists 18th-century British astronomers 18th-century British scientists 18th-century English mathematicians 18th-century English male writers 18th-century English writers 18th-century Latin-language writers Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge Antitrinitarians Ballistics experts British scientific instrument makers Burials at Westminster Abbey Color scientists Copernican Revolution Creators of temperature scales Critics of atheism English alchemists English Anglicans English Christians English inventors English justices of the peace English knights English mathematicians English MPs 1689–1690 English MPs 1701–1702 English physicists Enlightenment scientists Experimental physicists Fellows of the Royal Society Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge Fluid dynamicists British geometers Linear algebraists Hermeticists History of calculus Knights Bachelor Lucasian Professors of Mathematics Masters of the Mint Members of the pre-1707 Parliament of England for the University of Cambridge Natural philosophers Nontrinitarian Christians Optical physicists People educated at The King's School, Grantham People from South Kesteven District Philosophers of science Post-Reformation Arian Christians Presidents of the Royal Society Reputed virgins Theoretical physicists Writers about religion and science