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Sir Isaac Newton PRS (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1727 [NS: 4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727]) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."
His monograph Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, lays the foundations for most of classical mechanics. In this work, Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. Newton showed that the motions of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws, by demonstrating the consistency between Kepler's laws of planetary motion and his theory of gravitation, thus removing the last doubts about heliocentrism and advancing the Scientific Revolution. The Principia is generally considered to be one of the most important scientific books ever written.
Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of colour based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colours that form the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound.
In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of differential and integral calculus. He also demonstrated the generalised binomial theorem, developed Newton's method for approximating the roots of a function, and contributed to the study of power series.
Newton was also highly religious. He was an unorthodox Christian, and wrote more on Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than on science and mathematics, the subjects he is mainly associated with. Newton secretly rejected Trinitarianism, fearing to be accused of refusing holy orders.
Isaac Newton was born on what is retroactively considered 4 January 1643 [OS: 25 December 1642] at Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a hamlet in the county of Lincolnshire. At the time of Newton's birth, England had not adopted the Gregorian calendar and therefore his date of birth was recorded as Christmas Day, 25 December 1642. Newton was born three months after the death of his father, a prosperous farmer also named Isaac Newton. Born prematurely, he was a small child; his mother Hannah Ayscough reportedly said that he could have fit inside a quart mug (≈ 1.1 litres). When Newton was three, his mother remarried and went to live with her new husband, the Reverend Barnabus Smith, leaving her son in the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough. The young Isaac disliked his stepfather and held 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." While Newton was once engaged in his late teens to a Miss Storey, he never married, being highly engrossed in his studies and work.
Isaac Newton (Bolton, Sarah K. Famous Men of Science. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1889
From the age of about twelve until he was seventeen, Newton was educated at The King's School, Grantham (where his alleged signature can still be seen upon a library window sill). He was removed from school, and by October 1659, he was to be found at Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, where his mother, widowed by now for a second time, attempted to make a farmer of him. He hated farming. Henry Stokes, master at the King's School, persuaded his mother to send him back to school so that he might complete his education. Motivated partly by a desire for revenge against a schoolyard bully, he became the top-ranked student. The Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen considers it "fairly certain" that Newton suffered from Asperger syndrome.
In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge as a sizar – a sort of work-study role. At that time, the college's teachings were based on those of Aristotle, but Newton preferred to read the more advanced ideas of modern philosophers, such as Descartes, and of astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. In 1665, he discovered the generalised binomial theorem and began to develop a mathematical theory that later became infinitesimal calculus. Soon after Newton had obtained his degree 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 subsequent two years saw the development of his theories on calculus, optics and the law of gravitation. In 1667, he returned to Cambridge as a fellow of Trinity. Fellows were required to become ordained priests, something Newton desired to avoid due to his unorthodox views. Luckily for Newton, there was no specific deadline for ordination and it could be postponed indefinitely. The problem became more severe later when Newton was elected for the prestigious Lucasian Chair. For such a significant appointment, ordaining normally could not be dodged. Nevertheless, Newton managed to avoid it by means of a special permission from Charles II (see "Middle years" section below).
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 is seen, for example, in a manuscript of October 1666, now published among Newton's mathematical papers. A related subject was infinite series. Newton's manuscript "De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas" ("On analysis by equations infinite in number of terms") was sent by Isaac Barrow to John Collins in June 1669: in August 1669 Barrow identified its author to Collins as "Mr Newton, a fellow of our College, and very young ... but of an extraordinary genius and proficiency in these things".
Newton later became involved in a dispute with Leibniz over priority in the development of infinitesimal calculus. Most modern historians believe that Newton and Leibniz developed infinitesimal calculus independently, although with very different notations. Occasionally it has been suggested that Newton published almost nothing about it until 1693, and did not give a full account until 1704, while Leibniz began publishing a full account of his methods in 1684. (Leibniz's notation and "differential Method", nowadays recognised as much more convenient notations, were adopted by continental European mathematicians, and after 1820 or so, also by British mathematicians.) Such a suggestion, however, fails to notice the content of calculus which critics of Newton's time and modern times have pointed out in Book 1 of Newton's Principia itself (published 1687) and in its forerunner manuscripts, such as De motu corporum in gyrum ("On the motion of bodies in orbit"), of 1684. The Principia is not written in the language of calculus either as we know it or as Newton's (later) 'dot' notation would write it. But his work extensively uses an infinitesimal calculus in geometric form, based on limiting values of the ratios of vanishing 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 "lequel est presque tout de ce calcul" ('nearly all of it is of this calculus') in Newton's time. 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 had a very close relationship with Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, who from the beginning was impressed by Newton's gravitational theory. In 1691, Duillier planned to prepare a new version of Newton's Principia, but never finished it. However, in 1693 the relationship between the two men changed. At the time, Duillier had also exchanged several letters with Leibniz.
Starting in 1699, other members of the Royal Society (of which Newton was a member) accused Leibniz of plagiarism, and the dispute broke out in full force in 1711. The Royal Society proclaimed in a study that it was Newton who was the true discoverer and labelled Leibniz a fraud. This study was cast into doubt when it was later found that Newton himself 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, classified cubic plane curves (polynomials of degree three in two variables), made substantial contributions to the theory of finite differences, and was the first to use fractional indices and to employ coordinate geometry to derive solutions to Diophantine equations. He approximated partial sums of the harmonic series by logarithms (a precursor to Euler's summation formula), and was the first to use power series with confidence and to revert power series.
He was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1669 on Barrow's recommendation. In that day, any fellow of Cambridge or Oxford was required to become an ordained Anglican priest. However, the terms of the Lucasian professorship required that the holder not 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.
From 1670 to 1672, Newton lectured on optics. During this period he investigated the refraction of light, demonstrating that a prism could decompose white light into a spectrum of colours, and that a lens and a second prism could recompose the multicoloured spectrum into white light.
He also showed that the coloured light does not change its properties by separating out a coloured beam and shining it on various objects. Newton noted that regardless of whether it was reflected or scattered or transmitted, it stayed 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 would suffer from the dispersion of light into colours (chromatic aberration). As a proof of the concept, he constructed a telescope using a mirror 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. In 1671, the Royal Society asked for a demonstration of his reflecting telescope. Their interest encouraged him to publish his notes On Colour, which he later expanded into his Opticks. When Robert Hooke 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 (see Newton's law of universal gravitation – History and De motu corporum in gyrum). 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). Later physicists instead favoured a purely wavelike explanation of light to account for the interference patterns, and the general phenomenon of diffraction. Today's quantum mechanics, photons and the idea of wave–particle duality 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 to transmit forces between particles. The contact with the theosophist Henry More, 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, 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 interest in alchemy cannot be isolated from his contributions to science; however, he did apparently abandon his alchemical researches. (This was at a time when there was no clear distinction between alchemy and science.) Had he not relied on the occult idea of action at a distance, across a vacuum, he might not have developed his theory of gravity. (See also Isaac Newton's occult studies.)
In 1704, Newton published Opticks, 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, using a glass globe (Optics, 8th Query).
In an article entitled "Newton, prisms, and the 'opticks' of tunable lasers it is indicated that Newton in his book Opticks was the first to show a diagram using a prism as a beam expander. In the same book he describes, via diagrams, the use of multiple-prism arrays. Some 278 years after Newton's discussion, multiple-prism expanders became central to the development of narrow-linewidth tunable lasers. Also, the use of these prismatic beam expanders led to the multiple-prism dispersion theory.
Mechanics and gravitation
Newton's own copy of his Principia
, with hand-written corrections for the second edition
In 1679, Newton returned to his work on (celestial) mechanics, i.e., gravitation and its effect on the orbits of planets, with reference to Kepler's laws 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. 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 (see Newton's law of universal gravitation – History and De motu corporum in gyrum). Newton communicated his results to Edmond Halley and to the Royal Society in De motu corporum in gyrum, a tract written on about 9 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 Edmond Halley. In this work, Newton stated the three universal laws of motion that enabled many of the advances of the Industrial Revolution which soon followed and were not to be improved upon for more than 200 years, and are still the underpinnings of the non-relativistic technologies of the modern world. He used the Latin word gravitas (weight) for the effect that would become known as gravity, and defined the law of universal gravitation.
In the same work, Newton presented a calculus-like method of geometrical analysis by 'first and last ratios', gave the first analytical determination (based on Boyle's law) of the speed of sound in air, inferred the oblateness of the spheroidal figure of the Earth, 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 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 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, with whom he formed an intense relationship that lasted until 1693, when it abruptly ended, at the same time that Newton suffered a nervous breakdown.
Personal coat of arms of Sir Isaac Newton
In the 1690s, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible. Henry More's belief in the Universe and rejection of Cartesian dualism may have influenced Newton's religious ideas. A manuscript he sent to John Locke in which he disputed the existence of the Trinity was never published. Later works – The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728) and Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733) – were published after his death. He also devoted a great deal of time to alchemy (see above).
Newton was also a member of the Parliament of England from 1689 to 1690 and in 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.
Newton moved to London to take up the post of warden of the Royal Mint in 1696, a position that he had obtained through the patronage of Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He took charge of England's great recoining, somewhat treading on the toes of Lord Lucas, Governor of the Tower (and securing the job of deputy comptroller of the temporary Chester branch for Edmond Halley). Newton became perhaps the best-known Master of the Mint upon the death of Thomas Neale in 1699, a position Newton held until his death. These appointments were intended as sinecures, but Newton took them seriously, retiring from his Cambridge duties in 1701, and exercising his power to reform the currency and punish clippers and counterfeiters. As Master of the Mint in 1717 in the "Law of Queen Anne" Newton moved the Pound Sterling de facto from the silver standard to the gold standard by setting the bimetallic relationship between gold coins and the silver penny in favour of gold. This caused silver sterling coin to be melted and shipped out of Britain. Newton was made President of the Royal Society 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, the Astronomer Royal, by prematurely publishing Flamsteed's Historia Coelestis Britannica, which Newton had used in his studies.
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 Sir Francis Bacon.
Towards the end of his life, Newton took up residence at Cranbury Park, near Winchester with his niece and her husband, until his death in 1727. Newton died in his sleep in London on 31 March 1727 [OS: 20 March 1726], and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His half-niece, Catherine Barton Conduitt, served as his hostess in social affairs at his house on Jermyn Street in London; he was her "very loving Uncle," according to his letter to her when she was recovering from smallpox. Newton, a bachelor, had divested much of his estate to relatives during his last years, and died intestate.
After his death, Newton's body was discovered to have had massive amounts of mercury in it, probably resulting from his alchemical pursuits. Mercury poisoning could explain Newton's eccentricity in late life.
French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange often said that Newton was the greatest genius who ever lived, and once added that Newton was also "the most fortunate, for we cannot find more than once a system of the world to establish." English poet Alexander Pope was moved by Newton's accomplishments to write the famous epitaph:
Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said "Let Newton be" and all was light.
Newton himself had been rather more modest of his own achievements, famously writing in a letter to Robert Hooke in February 1676:
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Two writers think that the above quote, 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 17th-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.
Albert Einstein kept a photograph of Newton on his study wall alongside pictures of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. Newton remains influential to todays scientists, as demonstrated by a 2005 survey of members of Britain's Royal Society (formerly headed by Newton) asking who had the greater effect on the history of science, Newton or Einstein. Royal Society scientists deemed Newton to have made the greater overall contribution. In 1999, an opinion poll of 100 of today'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.
Newton's monument (1731) can be seen in Westminster Abbey, 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:
Here is buried Isaac Newton, Knight, who by a strength of mind almost divine, and mathematical principles peculiarly his own, explored the course and figures of the planets, the paths of comets, the tides of the sea, the dissimilarities in rays of light, and, what no other scholar has previously imagined, the properties of the colours thus produced. Diligent, sagacious and faithful, in his expositions of nature, antiquity and the holy Scriptures, he vindicated by his philosophy the majesty of God mighty and good, and expressed the simplicity of the Gospel in his manners. Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race! He was born on 25 December 1642, and died on 20 March 1726/7. — Translation from G.L. Smyth, The Monuments and Genii of St. Paul's Cathedral, and of Westminster Abbey (1826), ii, 703–4.
From 1978 until 1988, an image of Newton designed by Harry Ecclestone appeared on Series D £1 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.
A statue of Isaac Newton, looking at an apple at his feet, can be seen at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
In popular culture
According to most scholars, Newton was a monotheist who believed in biblical prophecies but was Antitrinitarian. 'In Newton's eyes, worshipping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin'. Historian Stephen D. Snobelen says of Newton, "Isaac Newton was a 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 unravelling 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 Arian and almost certainly an anti-trinitarian. In an age notable for its religious intolerance, there are few public expressions of Newton's radical views, most notably his refusal to take holy orders and his refusal, on his death bed, to take the sacrament when it was offered to him.
In a view disputed by Snobelen, T.C. Pfizenmaier argues that Newton held the Arian view of the Trinity rather than the Western one held by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and most Protestants.
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, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."
His scientific fame notwithstanding, Newton's studies of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were also noteworthy. Newton wrote works on textual criticism, most notably An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture. He also placed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at 3 April, AD 33, which agrees with one traditionally accepted date. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to find hidden messages within the Bible.
Newton wrote more on religion than he did on natural science. He believed in a rationally immanent world, but he rejected the hylozoism implicit in Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza. Thus, 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 famous correspondence.
Effect on religious thought
Newton and Robert Boyle's mechanical philosophy was promoted by rationalist pamphleteers as a viable alternative to the pantheists and enthusiasts, and was accepted hesitantly by orthodox preachers as well as dissident preachers like the latitudinarians. Thus, the clarity and simplicity of science was seen as a way to combat the emotional and metaphysical superlatives of both superstitious enthusiasm and the threat of atheism, and, at the same time, the second wave of English deists used Newton's discoveries to demonstrate the possibility of a "Natural Religion".
The attacks made against pre-Enlightenment "magical thinking", and the 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. Newton refashioned the world governed by an interventionist God into a world crafted by a God that designs along rational and universal principles. These principles were available for all people to discover, allowed people to pursue their own aims fruitfully in this life, not the next, and to perfect themselves with their own rational powers.
Newton saw God as the master creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation. His spokesman, Clarke, rejected Leibniz' theodicy which cleared God from the responsibility for l'origine du mal by making God removed from participation in his creation, since as Clarke pointed out, such a deity would be a king in name only, and but one step away from atheism. But the unforeseen theological consequence of the success of Newton's system over the next century was to reinforce the deist position advocated by Leibniz. The understanding of the world was now brought down to the level of simple human reason, and humans, as Odo Marquard argued, became responsible for the correction and elimination of evil.
Views of the end of the world
In a manuscript he wrote in 1704 in which he describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible, he estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. In predicting this he said, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
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 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 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 sociologists criticised the current social order for trying to fit history into Natural models of progress. Monboddo and Samuel Clarke resisted elements of Newton's work, but eventually rationalised it to conform with their strong religious views of nature.
As warden of the Royal Mint, Newton estimated that 20 percent of the coins taken in during The Great Recoinage of 1696 were counterfeit. Counterfeiting was high treason, punishable by the felon's being hanged, drawn and quartered. Despite this, convicting the most flagrant criminals could be extremely difficult. However, Newton proved to be equal to the task. Disguised as a habitué of bars and taverns, he gathered much of that evidence himself. For all the barriers placed to prosecution, and separating the branches of government, English law still had ancient and formidable customs of authority. Newton had himself made a justice of the peace in all the home counties. Then he conducted more than 100 cross-examinations of witnesses, informers, and suspects between June 1698 and Christmas 1699. Newton successfully prosecuted 28 coiners.
One of Newton's cases as the , King's attorney was against William Chaloner. Chaloner's schemes included setting up phony conspiracies of Catholics and then turning in the hapless conspirators whom he had entrapped. Chaloner made himself rich enough to posture as a gentleman. Petitioning Parliament, Chaloner accused the Mint of providing tools to counterfeiters (a charge also made by others). He proposed that he be allowed to inspect the Mint's processes in order to improve them. He petitioned Parliament to adopt his plans for a coinage that could not be counterfeited, while at the same time striking false coins. Newton put Chaloner on trial for counterfeiting and had him sent to Newgate Prison in September 1697. But Chaloner had friends in high places, who helped him secure an acquittal and his release. Newton put him on trial a second time with conclusive evidence. Chaloner was convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered on 23 March 1699 at Tyburn gallows.
Laws of motion
The famous three laws of motion (stated in modernised form): Newton's First Law (also known as the Law of Inertia) states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and that an object in uniform motion tends to stay in uniform motion unless acted upon by a net external force. The meaning of this law is the existence of reference frames (called inertial frames) where objects not acted upon by forces move in uniform motion (in particular, they may be at rest).
Newton's Second Law states that an applied force, , on an object equals the rate of change of its momentum, , with time. Mathematically, this is expressed as
If applied to an object with constant mass (dm/dt = 0), the first term vanishes, and by substitution using the definition of acceleration, the equation can be written in the iconic form
The first and second laws represent a break with the physics of Aristotle, in which it was believed that a force was necessary in order to maintain motion. They state that a force is only needed in order to change an object's state of motion. The SI unit of force is the newton, named in Newton's honour.
Newton's Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that any force exerted onto an object has a counterpart force that is exerted in the opposite direction back onto the first object. A common example is of two ice skaters pushing against each other and sliding apart in opposite directions. Another example is the recoil of a firearm, in which the force propelling the bullet is exerted equally back onto the gun and is felt by the shooter. Since the objects in question do not necessarily have the same mass, the resulting acceleration of the two objects can be different (as in the case of firearm recoil).
Unlike Aristotle's, Newton's physics is meant to be universal. For example, the second law applies both to a planet and to a falling stone.
The vector nature of the second law addresses the geometrical relationship between the direction of the force and the manner in which the object's momentum changes. Before Newton, it had typically been assumed that a planet orbiting the sun would need a forward force to keep it moving. Newton showed instead that all that was needed was an inward attraction from the sun. Even many decades after the publication of the Principia, this counterintuitive idea was not universally accepted, and many scientists preferred Descartes' theory of vortices.
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.
Cartoons have gone further to suggest the apple actually hit Newton's head, and that its impact somehow made him aware of the force of gravity, though this is not reported in the biographical manuscript by William Stukeley, published in 1752, and made available by the Royal Society. Most likely, being hit by an apple is just a myth; certainly he did not arrive at his theory of gravity in any single moment. 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. John Conduitt, Newton's assistant at the Royal Mint and husband of Newton's niece, described the event when he wrote about Newton's life:
In the year 1666 he retired again from Cambridge to his mother in Lincolnshire. Whilst he was pensively meandering in a garden it came into his thought that the power of gravity (which brought an apple from a tree to the ground) was not limited to a certain distance from earth, but that this power must extend much further than was usually thought. Why not as high as the Moon said he to himself & if so, that must influence her motion & perhaps retain her in her orbit, whereupon he fell a calculating what would be the effect of that supposition.
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".
Stukeley recorded in his Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life a conversation with Newton in Kensington on 15 April 1726, in which Newton recalled:
when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself. Why should it not go sideways or upwards, but constantly to the Earth's centre? Assuredly the reason is, that the Earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter. And the sum of the drawing power in the matter of the Earth must be in the Earth's centre, not in any side of the Earth. Therefore does this apple fall perpendicularly or towards the centre? If matter thus draws matter; it must be proportion of its quantity. Therefore the apple draws the Earth, as well as the Earth draws the apple."
In similar terms, Voltaire 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."
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-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 can supply grafts from their tree, which appears identical to Flower of Kent, a coarse-fleshed cooking variety.
Footnotes and references
- ^ a b c d e During Newton's lifetime, two calendars were in use in Europe: the Julian or 'Old Style' in Britain and parts of northern Europe (Protestant) and eastern Europe, and the Gregorian or 'New Style', in use in Roman Catholic Europe and elsewhere. At Newton's birth, Gregorian dates were ten days ahead of Julian dates: thus Newton was born on Christmas Day, 25 December 1642 by the Julian calendar, but on 4 January 1643 by the Gregorian. By the time he died, the difference between the calendars had increased to eleven days. Moreover, prior to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the UK in 1752, the English new year began (for legal and some other civil purposes) on 25 March ('Lady Day', i.e. the feast of the Annunciation: sometimes called 'Annunciation Style') rather than on 1 January (sometimes called 'Circumcision Style'). Unless otherwise noted, the remainder of the dates in this article follow the Julian Calendar.
- ^ Mordechai Feingold, Barrow, Isaac (1630–1677), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, May 2007; accessed 24 February 2009; explained further in Mordechai Feingold " Newton, Leibniz, and Barrow Too: An Attempt at a Reinterpretation"; Isis, Vol. 84, No. 2 (June, 1993), pp. 310–338
- ^ Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Newton, Isaac, n.4
- ^ Gjersten, Derek (1986). The Newton Handbook. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- ^ a b Westfall, Richard S. (1983) . Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 530–1. ISBN 9780521274357.
- ^ a b c d e fSnobelen, Stephen D. (1999). "Isaac Newton, heretic: the strategies of a Nicodemite" (PDF). British Journal for the History of Science 32 (4): 381–419. doi:10.1017/S0007087499003751. http://www.isaac-newton.org/heretic.pdf.
- ^ Burt, Daniel S. (2001). The biography book: a reader's guide to nonfiction, fictional, and film biographies of more than 500 of the most fascinating individuals of all time. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 315. ISBN 1-573-56256-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=jpFrgSAaKAUC. , Extract of page 315
- ^ "The Early Period (1608–1672)". James R. Graham's Home Page. http://etoile.berkeley.edu/~jrg/TelescopeHistory/Early_Period.html. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
- ^ Cohen, I.B. (1970). Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 11, p.43. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
- ^ "Isaac Newton's Life". Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences. 1998. http://www.newton.ac.uk/newtlife.html. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
- ^ "Isaac Newton". Bellevue College. http://scidiv.bellevuecollege.edu/MATH/Newton.html. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
- ^ Newton, Isaac; Derek Thomas Whiteside (1967). The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton: 1664–1666. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 9780521058179. http://books.google.com/?id=1ZcYsNBptfYC&pg=PA8&lpg=PA8&dq=isaac+newton+miss+storey&q=miss%20storey. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
- ^ Westfall 1994, pp 16–19
- ^ White 1997, p. 22
- ^ James, Ioan (January 2003). "Singular scientists". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 96 (1): 36–39. doi:10.1258/jrsm.96.1.36. PMC 539373. PMID 12519805. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=539373.
- ^ Michael White, Isaac Newton (1999) page 46
- ^ ed. Michael Hoskins (1997). Cambridge Illustrated History of Astronomy, p. 159. Cambridge University Press
- ^ Newton, Isaac in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
- ^ W W Rouse Ball (1908), "A short account of the history of mathematics", at page 319.
- ^ D T Whiteside (ed.), The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton (Volume 1), (Cambridge University Press, 1967), part 7 "The October 1666 Tract on Fluxions", at page 400, in 2008 reprint.
- ^ D Gjertsen (1986), "The Newton handbook", (London (Routledge & Kegan Paul) 1986), at page 149.
- ^ Newton, 'Principia', 1729 English translation, at page 41.
- ^ Newton, 'Principia', 1729 English translation, at page 54.
- ^ Clifford Truesdell, Essays in the History of Mechanics (Berlin, 1968), at p.99.
- ^ In the preface to the Marquis de L'Hospital's Analyse des Infiniment Petits (Paris, 1696).
- ^ Starting with De motu corporum in gyrum, see also (Latin) Theorem 1.
- ^ D T Whiteside (1970), "The Mathematical principles underlying Newton's Principia Mathematica" in Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol.1, pages 116–138, especially at pages 119–120.
- ^ Stewart 2009, p.107
- ^ Westfall 1980, pp 538–539
- ^ Ball 1908, p. 356ff
- ^ White 1997, p. 151
- ^ King, Henry C (2003). ''The History of the Telescope'' By Henry C. King, Page 74. Google Books. ISBN 9780486432656. http://books.google.com/?id=KAWwzHlDVksC&dq=history+of+the+telescope&printsec=frontcover. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- ^ Ball 1908, p. 324
- ^ Ball 1908, p. 325
- ^ a b White 1997, p170
- ^ Hall, Alfred Rupert (1996). '''Isaac Newton: adventurer in thought''', by Alfred Rupert Hall, page 67. Google Books. ISBN 9780521566698. http://books.google.com/?id=32IDpTdthm4C&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=newton+reflecting+telescope++1668+letter+1669&q=newton%20reflecting%20telescope%20%201668%20letter%201669. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- ^ White 1997, p168
- ^ a b See 'Correspondence of Isaac Newton, vol.2, 1676–1687' ed. H W Turnbull, Cambridge University Press 1960; at page 297, document #235, letter from Hooke to Newton dated 24 November 1679.
- ^ Iliffe, Robert (2007) Newton. A very short introduction, Oxford University Press 2007
- ^ Keynes, John Maynard (1972). "Newton, The Man". The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes Volume X. MacMillan St. Martin's Press. pp. 363–4.
- ^ Dobbs, J.T. (December 1982). "Newton's Alchemy and His Theory of Matter". Isis 73 (4): 523. doi:10.1086/353114. quoting Opticks
- ^ a b Duarte F. J, F. J. (2000). "Newton, prisms, and the 'opticks' of tunable lasers". Optics and Photonics News 11 (5): 24–25. Bibcode 2000OptPN..11...24D. doi:10.1364/OPN.11.5.000024. http://www.opticsjournal.com/F.J.DuarteOPN%282000%29.pdf.
- ^ R S Westfall, 'Never at Rest', 1980, at pages 391–2.
- ^ D T Whiteside (ed.), 'Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton', vol.6, 1684–1691, Cambridge University Press 1974, at page 30.
- ^ See Curtis Wilson, "The Newtonian achievement in astronomy", pages 233–274 in R Taton & C Wilson (eds) (1989) The General History of Astronomy, Volume, 2A', at page 233.
- ^ Text quotations are from 1729 translation of Newton's Principia, Book 3 (1729 vol.2) at pages 232–233.
- ^ Edelglass et al., Matter and Mind, ISBN 0-940262-45-2. p. 54
- ^ Westfall 1980. Chapter 11.
- ^ Westfall 1980. pp 493–497 on the friendship with Fatio, pp 531–540 on Newton's breakdown.
- ^ Gerard Michon. "Coat of arms of Isaac Newton". Numericana.com. http://www.numericana.com/arms/index.htm#newton. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- ^ White 1997, p. 232
- ^ White 1997, p.317
- ^ "The Queen's 'great Assistance' to Newton's election was his knighting, an honor bestowed not for his contributions to science, nor for his service at the Mint, but for the greater glory of party politics in the election of 1705." Westfall 1994 p.245
- ^ Yonge, Charlotte M. (1898). "Cranbury and Brambridge". John Keble's Parishes – Chapter 6. www.online-literature.com. http://www.online-literature.com/charlotte-yonge/john-keble/6/. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
- ^ Westfall 1980, p. 44.
- ^ Westfall 1980, p. 595
- ^ "Newton, Isaac (1642–1727)". Eric Weisstein's World of Biography. http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Newton.html. Retrieved 30 August 2006.
- ^ Fred L. Wilson, History of Science: Newton citing: Delambre, M. "Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. le comte J. L. Lagrange," Oeuvres de Lagrange I. Paris, 1867, p. xx.
- ^ Letter from Isaac Newton to Robert Hooke, 5 February 1676, as transcribed in Jean-Pierre Maury (1992) Newton: Understanding the Cosmos, New Horizons
- ^ Wikipedia Standing on the shoulders of giants,
- ^ John Gribbin (2002) Science: A History 1543–2001, p 164.
- ^ White 1997, p187.
- ^ Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1855) by Sir David Brewster (Volume II. Ch. 27)
- ^ "Einstein's Heroes: Imagining the World through the Language of Mathematics", by Robyn Arianrhod UQP, reviewed by Jane Gleeson-White, 10 November 2003, The Sydney Morning Herald
- ^ "Newton beats Einstein in polls of Royal Society scientists and the public". The Royal Society. http://royalsociety.org/News.aspx?id=1324&terms=Newton+beats+Einstein+in+polls+of+scientists+and+the+public.
- ^ Opinion poll. Einstein voted "greatest physicist ever" by leading physicists; Newton runner-up: BBC news, Monday, 29 November 1999, News.bbc.co.uk
- ^ a b "Famous People & the Abbey: Sir Isaac Newton". Westminster Abbey. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/sir-isaac-newton. Retrieved 13 November 2009.
- ^ "Withdrawn banknotes reference guide". Bank of England. http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/denom_guide/nonflash/1-SeriesD-Revised.htm. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
- ^ Avery Cardinal Dulles. The Deist Minimum. January 2005.
- ^Westfall, Richard S. (1994). The Life of Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521477379.
- ^ Pfizenmaier, T.C. (1997). "Was Isaac Newton an Arian?". Journal of the History of Ideas 58 (1): 57–80.
- ^ Tiner, J.H. (1975). Isaac Newton: Inventor, Scientist and Teacher. Milford, Michigan, U.S.: Mott Media. ISBN 0915134950.
- ^ John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, v. 1, pp. 382–402 after narrowing the years to 30 or 33, provisionally judges 30 most likely.
- ^ Newton to Richard Bentley 10 December 1692, in Turnbull et al. (1959–77), vol 3, p. 233.
- ^ Opticks, 2nd Ed 1706. Query 31.
- ^ H. G. Alexander (ed) The Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, Manchester University Press, 1998, p. 11.
- ^ Jacob, Margaret C. (1976). The Newtonians and the English Revolution: 1689–1720. Cornell University Press. pp. 37, 44. ISBN 0855270667.
- ^ Westfall, Richard S. (1958). Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 200. ISBN 0208008438.
- ^ Haakonssen, Knud. "The Enlightenment, politics and providence: some Scottish and English comparisons". In Martin Fitzpatrick ed.. Enlightenment and Religion: Rational Dissent in eighteenth-century Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 64. ISBN 0521560608.
- ^ Frankel, Charles (1948). The Faith of Reason: The Idea of Progress in the French Enlightenment. New York: King's Crown Press. p. 1.
- ^ Germain, Gilbert G.. A Discourse on Disenchantment: Reflections on Politics and Technology. p. 28. ISBN 0791413195.
- ^ Principia, Book III; cited in; Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from his writings, p. 42, ed. H.S. Thayer, Hafner Library of Classics, NY, 1953.
- ^ A Short Scheme of the True Religion, manuscript quoted in Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton by Sir David Brewster, Edinburgh, 1850; cited in; ibid, p. 65.
- ^ Webb, R.K. ed. Knud Haakonssen. “The emergence of Rational Dissent.” Enlightenment and Religion: Rational Dissent in eighteenth-century Britain. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 1996. p19.
- ^ H. G. Alexander (ed) The Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, Manchester University Press, 1998, p. 14.
- ^ Westfall, 1958 p201.
- ^ Marquard, Odo. "Burdened and Disemburdened Man and the Flight into Unindictability," in Farewell to Matters of Principle. Robert M. Wallace trans. London: Oxford UP, 1989.
- ^ "Papers Show Isaac Newton's Religious Side, Predict Date of Apocalypse". Associated Press. 19 June 2007. Archived from the original on 13 August 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070813033620/http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070619/28049_Papers_Show_Isaac_Newton%27s_Religious_Side,_Predict_Date_of_Apocalypse.htm. Retrieved 1 August 2007.
- ^ Cassels, Alan. Ideology and International Relations in the Modern World. p2.
- ^ "Although it was just one of the many factors in the Enlightment, the success of Newtonian physics in providing a mathematical description of an ordered world clearly played a big part in the flowering of this movement in the eighteenth century" John Gribbin (2002) Science: A History 1543–2001, p 241
- ^ White 1997, p. 259
- ^ White 1997, p. 267
- ^ Westfall 2007, p.73
- ^ a b White 1997, p 269
- ^ Westfall 1994, p 229
- ^ Westfall 1980, pp. 571–5
- ^ Ball 1908, p. 337
- ^ White 1997, p. 86
- ^ Newton's apple: The real story. New Scientist. 18 January 2010. http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/01/newtons-apple-the-real-story.php. Retrieved 10 May 2010
- ^ Scott Berkun (27 August 2010). The Myths of Innovation. O'Reilly Media, Inc.. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-4493-8962-8. http://books.google.com/books?id=kPCgnc70MSgC&pg=PA4. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
- ^ I. Bernard Cohen and George E. Smith, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Newton (2002) p. 6
- ^ Conduitt, John. "Keynes Ms. 130.4:Conduitt's account of Newton's life at Cambridge". Newtonproject. Imperial College London. http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/view/texts/normalized/THEM00167. Retrieved 30 August 2006.
- ^ Stukeley, William. "Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life". http://physics.info/gravitation/apple.html. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
- ^ Alberto A. Martinez Science Secrets: The Truth about Darwin's Finches, Einstein's Wife, and Other Myths, page 69 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). ISBN 978-0-8229-4407-2
- ^ "Brogdale — Home of the National Fruit Collection". Brogdale.org. http://www.brogdale.org/. Retrieved 20 December 2008.
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