Isaac Newton was born prematurely, on Christmas Day, 1642, in the small English town of Woolsthorpe. His father, a farmer, died just before Isaac was born. When Isaac was three years old, his mother remarried and moved to another town. Isaac stayed on the farm in Woolsthorpe with his grandmother. After going to small country school, he was sent at the age of twelve to the Kings School in the near by town of Grantham. At first Isaac was an awful student. He didnt care about his school- work very much, all he ever wanted to do was paint, make kites, write in notebooks, and invent toys.
He had no friends at all. Isaac was dull and dreamy, he had the worst grades in his class. Strangely, it was a good hard kick by a school bully that caused Newton’s genius mind to bloom. The boring, dreamy boy flew into a rage and beat up the other boy so badly, the bully supposedly cried. Isaac was determined to beat the bully in school- work as well. Soon Isaac had the best grades in his class. In 1656 Newton’s stepfather died. His mother returned to Woolsthorpe to take care of the farm left by Newton’s father. But she didnt have enough money, so she could not manage the farm by herself.
Isaac was taken out of school and was sent home to help her. Poor young Isaac could not farm for his life. He abandoned the necessary chores and only thought about mechanical things to make and books to study. There are many stories about him at that time that show how forgetful he was becoming. One of the stories is about when he was once leading a horse, it ran away, and he didnt even notice. The story says that Isaacs horse slipped its bridle and ran away. The story then says that Isaac got home with the empty bridle, and he hadnt even noticed that the horse had gotten away.
A lot of people say that every time an idea got into Newtons head, he couldnt think about anything else. Once, during a horrible storm, his mother sent him to shut the barn doors to keep them from being ripped off. Half an hour later she went to see why Isaac was still at the barn. He had totally forgotten about the barn doors. They were torn off their hinges, and Isaac was jumping again and again from an open window to the ground. Each time, he marked the spot where he landed. Isaac was trying to measure how strong that the force of the wind was. When the gusts were powerful, his jumps were longer than when the wind was weaker.
Finally figuring out that her son was not the type that is good at farm life, Newton’s mother sent him back to Kings School. Newton graduated in 1661. When he was 18 years old, he then went to Trinity College in Cambridge University. He quickly showed his teachers that he was no average student. He read all the books he could get his hands on, especially those on mathematics and physics. These pleased him the most. His professors were amazed to find that Isaac knew about certain subjects even before he was taught the lessons. The young man had mastered the subjects by himself.
In 1665, when Newton was only 25 years old, he worked out a basic formula in Mathematics that has been used again and again ever since. Today it is called the Binomial Theroem. That same year, 1665, Isaac graduated from Trinity College. He wanted to stay at the university to continue his studies. But the plague, the Black Death, had broken out in England and it was striking many people. The university had been shut down and the students were all sent home, because people were afraid that the plague would strike Cambridge. Newton then returned to Woolsthorpe. Fear of the awful plague kept Newton close to the farm for the next 18 months.
Almost always alone, he spent his time thinking out complicated mathematical problems. In that 18 month time period he started what would be his lifes work. During that time he discovered a new mathematical tool that he called fluxions or flowing quantities. Today, fluxions are known as calculus. One day in 1665 Newton was sitting in the garden in Woolsthorpe, thinking about force that kept the moon moving around the earth, he saw an apple fall from a tree. This sent him thinking about falling objects. Isaac wanted to know, Why did they fall down and not up? He thought, It must be because the earth is attracting all objects to itself.
The same force that made the apple fall downward must also be attracting the moon and helping to keep it in orbit. From these thoughts that you have just read Newton began to figure out the relationship of gravity with the world. This law is called the law of Universal gravitation. While at Woolsthorpe, Newton began experimenting with light. He succeeded in showing that a beam of sunlight is made up of bands of colors from red to violet, as in a rainbow. Newton called these bands the spectrum. After the plague ended, Newton returned to Cambridge and continued working on light and color.
This work led him to the discovery of the reflecting telescope. Most modern telescopes, such as that on Mount Palomar in California, are based on Newton’s telescope. In credit of his work in mathematics and optics (the science of light) Newton was chosen to be professor of Mathematics at Trinity College in 1669. Early in 1672 he was elected a member of the Royal Society. Although Newton worked mostly with optics during these years at Trinity College, his mind always went back to the question of gravitation. He was trying to calculate the exact amount of force that objects put forth on each other.
Rather than spending time with friends, family and other people, he spent his time working. He made very few friends and became more spaced-out then ever. Finally, he finished the mathematics of the law of gravitation. Using this law, Newton in 1682 proved mathematically one of the laws of Planetary Motion. The German astronomer Johannes Kepler stated this law in the early 1600’s but he was not able to show mathematical proof. Because he was a shy man who did not care very much about fame, Newton put these and other calculations away in a drawer instead of making them public.
But his few friends knew all about the brilliant work he was doing. At last, they talked Newton into writing a book in which he would talk about his work on Planetary Motion, Gravitation, and other matters. In 1685 Newton finally plunged into his gigantic talks. He drove himself heartlessly, rarely eating and sleeping. Sometimes when he tried to leave his house and he started to walk towards the road a another idea would sometimes come to him, and he would run back inside of his house start testing it. As he walked into his garden a thought might suddenly occur to him.
He would then run back into his house and start testing out his idea. Newton’s book The Mathematical Principals of Natural Philosophy came out in 1687. It was written in Latin, which is the language which most scientific books were written in those times. Newton’s book is usually called the Principia, after its Latin title. Many scientists think its the most important scientific book ever written. It contains Newton’s famous three laws of motion. It also contained his law of universal gravitation. It also explains why a baseball drops from your hand to the ground and why a particle of dust settles on a bookshelf.
During later years of Newtons life he served his country in Parliament, as well as in other ways. In 1703 he was elected president of the Royal Society, and in 1705 Queen Anne knighted him. Isaac Newton died in 1727. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, among other great men of England. His statue stands today in the hall of Trinity College, Cambridge University. In my personal opinion Sir Isaac Newton was a crazy fruitcake. He lived like a hermit and when he discovered new things, he did not immediately teach the world about his discoveries.
He never had very many friends, and the few that he had probably thought that he was a maniac. If I had to compare him to a composer, he would have to be compared to Beethoven. Well, even though he was a weirdo he figured some pretty tough problems. Isaac Newton is special because he was one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians of all time. He is best-known for his discovery of the law of universal gravitation and the laws of motion. A lot of modern science and mathematics is based on the understanding and use of his laws.