Isaac Newton changed the way we understand the Universe. He discovered the laws of gravity and motion and invented calculus and the first working telescope. He helped shape our rational way of thinking and view of the world at large.
Grade Level: 4 – 8
- Sir Isaac Newton
- January 4, 1643 in Woolsthorpe, England
- March 31, 1727 (aged 84) in Middlesex, England
- Trinity College, Cambridge
- Newtonian mechanics
- Universal gravitation
- Newton’s laws of motion
- Optics: Built the first practical reflecting telescope
- Binomial series
- Newton’s method
Honors & Awards
- Fellow of the “College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity” (1667)
- FRS (1672)
- Knighted, after Sir Francis Bacon (1705)
- Natural philosophy
- Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687).
“To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.”
“To me there has never been a higher source of earthly honor or distinction than that connected with advances in science.”
Sir Isaac Newton was born on January 4, 1643 in Woolsthorpe, England and died on March 31, 1727 in London. Newton is an English physicist and mathematician who was the preminent figure of the scientific revolution of the 17th century. Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a sophisticated theory of color based on the observation that a prism separates white light into the colors of the visible spectrum. His work on light was collected in his highly influential book of Optics, published in 1704. He made the first theoretical calculation of the speed of sound and as a mathematician Newton contributed to the study of power series, generalized the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents, developed a method for approximating the roots of a function, and classified most of the cubic plane curves. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy“), first published in 1687, laid the ground work for classical mechanics.
Isaac Newton was born in Woolsthorpe, England on January 4, 1643. His father, a farmer who was also named Isaac Newton, had died three months before his birth. His mother remarried when Isaac was three years old and left young Isaac in the care of his grandparents.
From the age of about twelve until he was seventeen, Newton was educated at The King’s School, Grantham, which taught Latin and Greek and probably the ground work for him in mathematics. He was removed from school, and returned to Woolsthorpe in October 1659. His mother, widowed for the second time, attempted to make him a farmer, an occupation he hated. In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, on the recommendation of his uncle Rev William Ayscough, who had studied there.
Isaac grew up mostly alone. For the rest of his life he would prefer to work and live alone focused on his writing and his studies.
College and Career
In 1661, Isaac began to attend college at Cambridge. He would spend much of his life at Cambridge, becoming a professor of mathematics and a fellow of the Royal Society (a group of scientists in England). He eventually was elected to represent Cambridge University as a member of parliament.
Isaac had to leave Cambridge from 1665 to 1667 because of the Great Plague. He spent these two years in study and isolation at his home in Woolsthorpe developing his theories on calculus, gravity, and the laws of motion.
In 1696 Newton became the warden of the Royal Mint in London. He took his duties seriously and tried to get rid of corruption as well as to reform the currency of England. He was elected President of the Royal Society in 1703 and was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705.
In 1687 Newton published his most important work called the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (which means “Mathematical principals of Natural Philosophy”). In this work he described the three laws of motion as well as the law of universal gravity. This work would go down as one of the most important works in the history of science. It not only introduced the theory of gravity, but defined the principals of modern physics.
Isaac Newton made many scientific discoveries and inventions throughout his career. Here is a list of some of the most important and famous ones.
- Gravity – Newton is probably most famous for discovering gravity. Outlined in the Principia, his theory about gravity helped to explain the movements of the planets and the Sun. This theory is known today as Newton’s law of universal gravitation.
- Laws of Motion – Newton’s laws of motion were three fundamental laws of physics that laid the foundation for classical mechanics.
- Calculus – Newton invented a whole new type of mathematics which he called “fluxions.” Today we call this math calculus and it is an important type of math used in advanced engineering and science.
- Reflecting Telescope – In 1668 Newton invented the reflecting telescope. This type of telescope uses mirrors to reflect light and form an image. Nearly all of the major telescopes used in astronomy today are reflecting telescopes.
Interesting Facts about Isaac Newton
Newton died on March 31, 1727 in London, England. Today, he is considered one of the most influential scientists of all time alongside greats such as Albert Einstein, Aristotle, and Galileo.
- He studied many classic philosophers and astronomers such as Aristotle, Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Rene Descartes, and Galileo.
- Legend has it that Newton got his inspiration for gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree on his farm.
- He wrote his thoughts down in the Principia at the urging of his friend (and famous astronomer) Edmond Halley. Halley even paid for the book’s publication.
- He once said of his own work “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”