Sir Isaac Newton was a man of many facets, each of which reflected his times. He has been known as one of the greatest mathematicians, but then there is Newton the physicist, Newton the man who brought order into the world of science. Let us not forget Newton the theologian or Newton the alchemist-reminders that it is naïve for us to assume that science in the past was rigidly divided from other forms of belief. Later, in Newton's life, there was Newton, the man who was knighted and made Master of the Mint, and, shortly after, Newton became the President of the Royal Society. Certainly, Newton was a very talented man in many aspects. In the mathematics and science field, Newton has contributed to differential calculus, optics, color theory, and his very own three laws of motion. He applied these laws of motion to Kepler's laws of orbital motion and finish ed by producing the universal law of gravitation. He first came to develop this concept that marked the beginning of modern science by repetively comparing the real world with a simplified mathematical representation.
1665-67 Newton discovered his three laws of motion and the law of gravity.
1687: At the insistence of his friend, Edmund Halley, Newton published his findings in a work called the Principia.
Completed in 1684, The Mathematical Principles with their clear and convincing foundations, their subtle and elaborate mathematical development and their extensive application to the most majestic phenomena of nature (the celestial bodies, the shape of the earth, the motions of bodies in fluids and air) outshone by any comparison everything in man's renewed exploration of Nature since the Renaissance. The book created a new model for future science.
Newton's experimental discovery, made in 1664 or 1665, was that white light is not simple and homogenous but rather composed of colored constituents visible as separate rays in the spectrum. Each individual color was found by him to be indivisible and characterised by a particular mathematical theory in the form of wave lengths.
The high point of the Scientific Revolution was certainly Newton's discovery of the law of universal gravitation: All objects attract each other with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their separation. This discovery was not merely a flash of genius; it was a culmination of series of exercises in problem solving. Through logical deductions and transformation of existing ideas, the universal law of gravitation evolved.
There is the very popular story of the apple falling on Newton's head leading to the Universal Law of Gravitation. In Newton's own words:
"We know that there is a force of gravity that causes the apple to fall to the Earth. Could this same force reach out and hold the Moon in its orbit . . . and could a similar force between the Sun and the Planets hold them in their orbits?"
His three laws of motion answered his own question.
1. Every body routines in a state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
2. The change of motion is proportional to the force impressed, and is made in the direction of a straight line in which that force is impressed.
3. To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction, or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal and act in opposite directions.
Gingerich, Owen. Scientific Genius and Creativity. W.H. Freeman and Company: New York, 1982. 16-25.
Porter, Roy. Man Masters Nature: Twenty-Five Centureies of Science. George Braziller: New York, 1988. 77-87.
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