Biography of Isaac Newton | Considered the father of modern science

Considered the father of modern science, his systematization of physics retained full force until Einstein.
The scientific revolution started in the Renaissance by Copernicus and continued in the 17TH century by Galileo and Kepler Isaac Newton (1642-1727), had its culmination in the work of the British scientist who does not fit to judge but as one of the greatest geniuses in the history of science. Without forgetting its important contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and optics, brightest of your contribution belongs to the field of physics, to the point that classical physics and Newtonian physics are today synonymous expressions.

Isaac Newton
Familiar with studies on the movement of Galileo and Kepler's laws about the orbits of the planets, Newton established the fundamental laws of Dynamics (law of inertia, proportionality of force and acceleration and principle of action and reaction) and deduced from them the law of universal gravitation. Newton finds dazzled the scientific community: the clarification and mathematical formulation of the relationship between force and motion could explain and predict the trajectory of an arrow both the orbit of Mars, unifying the celestial and terrestrial mechanics. With its masterful systematization of the laws of motion, Newton liquidated Aristotelianism, prevailing for nearly two thousand years, and created a new paradigm (classical physics) that would remain valid until the beginning of the 20th century, when another genius of the same magnitude, Albert Einstein, formulated the theory of relativity.

A difficult childhood

Isaac Newton was born in the early hours of the 25 of December of 1642 (4 of January of 1643, according to the Gregorian calendar), in the small village of Woolsthorpe, in the County of Lincolnshire. His father, a small landowner, had just passed away at the beginning of October, after having married in April of the same year with Hannah Ayscough, coming from a wealthy family in another time.
When the small Isaac had just turned three years old, his mother married again the Rev. Barnabas Smith, rector of North Witham, which resulted in a fact that would decisively influence the development of the character of Newton: Hannah moved to the House of her new husband and her son remained in Woolsthorpe, in the care of his maternal grandmother.
Hate that it made him conceive of Newton against her mother and the Reverend Smith gives good account the fact that, in a list of "sins" that are autoinculpó at the age of nineteen, the number thirteen outside have wished to ignite them House with them inside. When Newton was twelve years old, his mother, widowed again, returned to Woolsthorpe, bringing with it substantial inheritance had bequeathed the second husband (and that Newton would benefit by her death in 1679), as well as three half-brothers to Isaac, two girls and a boy.

Isaac Newton (recreation of a portrait Godfrey Kneller, 1689)
A year later the young Newton was enrolled at the King's School in the nearby town of Grantham. There is evidence that, in the years there was hosted at the home of the pharmacist, developed his little usual mechanical skill, exercised in the construction of various mechanisms (the most quoted is a water clock) and toys (the famous comets, to whose tail tied headlights that night scared its neighbors).
There was also an important change in his character: his initial indifference by studies, that probably emerged from the shyness and withdrawal, turned into a fierce competitive spirit that led him to be the first of the class, as a result of a fight with a fellow from which he winner. Newton was a boy 'sober, quiet, meditative', who preferred to build tools for girls to play with her dolls to share the amusement of the other boys, according to the testimony of one of her children's female companions, which, when it was an old woman, claimed a teenage relationship with Newton, the only one that is known as a woman.
Age sixteen, her mother made it to return home so that began to deal with the Affairs of the inheritance. However, Newton was not at all interested in fulfil its responsibilities as a landlord; his mother, advised by the master of Newton and his own brother, agreed to come back to school to prepare for his entry into the University.

In Cambridge

Finally, in June of 1661, Newton was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, and enrolled as a servant, gaining their support in Exchange for domestic services, while their economic situation does not seem that he demanded it as well. There began to receive conventional education on the principles of Aristotelian philosophy (by then, centres that highlighted scientific studies were in Oxford and London), but in 1663 awoke his interest in issues concerning the experimental research of nature, who studied on their own.
Result of such independent efforts were their first notes about what would later become his calculus of fluxions, stimulated perhaps by some of the classes of the mathematician and theologian Isaac Barrow; However, Newton had to be examined by Barrow in 1664 to aspire to a scholarship, and failed to then inspire you any particularly favourable opinion.

Bust of Newton
By pleading in London the great plague of 1665 epidemic, Cambridge closed its doors and Newton returned to Woolsthorpe. In March 1666 he re-joined the Trinity, which again disrupted its activities in June to reappear the plague, and not definitely resumed his studies until April 1667. In a letter published posthumously, the own Newton described the years 1665 and 1666 as his more fruitful invention «time», during which "thought in mathematics and philosophy, much more than at any other time since then».
The method of fluxions, the theory of colors and the first ideas about the gravitational pull, related to the permanence of the Moon in its orbit around the Earth, were achievements mentioned by Newton as dated in those years, and he was commissioned to spread, also towards the end of his life, the anecdote that relates his first thoughts about the law of gravity with the casual remark of an Apple dropping from some fruit tree in your garden. Voltaire was commissioned to disclose in print the story, I knew by the niece of Newton.

Mathematical research and teaching

On his final return to Cambridge, Newton was elected fellow of Trinity College in October 1667, and two years later succeeded Barrow in his chair. During their first years of teaching does not seem that teaching activities pose no charge for it, since both the complexity of the issue and the tutorial teaching system favored the absenteeism to classes.

Isaac Newton
At that time, Newton wrote his first systematic exhibitions of the infinitesimal calculus, which were not published until later. In 1664 or 1665 he had found the famous formula for the development of the power of a binomial with one exponent either, whole or fractional, although he did not give written notice of the discovery until 1676, in two letters addressed to Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society; the theorem published it for the first time in 1685 John Wallis, the most important of the immediately previous to Newton English mathematicians, recognizing properly the priority of the latter in the finding.
The procedure followed by Newton to establish the binomial formula had the virtue of make him see the interest of the infinite series for the infinitesimal calculus, thus legitimizing the intervention of infinite processes in mathematical reasoning and putting an end to the traditional rejection of them imposed by Greek mathematics. The first significant exhibition of his method of mathematical analysis by infinite series, Newton wrote in 1669; Barrow met and made known the text, and Newton received pressures aimed to allow its publication, despite what (or perhaps because) why the writing did not reach print until 1711.

Controversies of optics

Not in classrooms reported Newton mathematical results, which seems to have been considered more as a tool for the study of nature as a subject worthy of attention itself; the chapter of science who chose to treat in their classes was optics, which came with your attention since 1666, I had the idea that was to lead to his discovery of the nature of light.
In February of 1672 presented to the Royal Society its first communication on the subject, few days after that company had chosen it as one of its members in recognition of their construction of a reflecting telescope. The communication of Newton brought clear experimental evidence that white light was a mixture of rays of different colors, each characterized by its distinct refrangibilidad through an optical Prism.

Newton telescope replica
Newton, with justice, that its discovery was considered "the most singular, when not the most important, that have been made so far regarding the operation of nature». But its immediate impact were those of mark the beginning of a period of four years (1672-1676) during which, as he wrote to Leibniz in December of 1675, «I was so harassed by discussions that arose following the publication of my theory about light, that cursed my recklessness by stray from the considerable advantages of my silence to chase a shadow».
The contrast between the obstinacy with which Newton defended his intellectual primacy there where it was appropriate to be recognized (admitting only reluctantly that others could have been anticipated), and his innate shyness that always made him distrust the possibility of having to mix with the ordinary mortals, is one of the traits of his biography that best seem to justify the characterization of how neurotic temperament; a diagnosis that the finding of their childhood trauma has not more than pay, and which has found its confirmation in other components of your personality as hypochondria or misogyny.
The first to oppose their ideas in the field of optics was Robert Hooke, who the Royal Society commissioned to report on the theory presented by Newton. Hooke advocated a wave conception of light, against the ideas of Newton, pointed out in a new communication of 1675 that light made a phenomenon resulting from the emission of light corpuscles by certain bodies. The pungency of the controversy was determined that Newton resign to publish a treatise containing the results of its investigations until after the death of Hooke and, indeed, its optics was not published until 1704. The maximum of Newton, mathematical natural philosophy principles, work would see the light much before.

Isaac Newton (detail of a portrait of James Thornhill, c. 1710)
In 1676 Newton resigned to continue the controversy about his theory of colors and, for a few years, took refuge again in the intimacy of his work on differential calculus and in their interest (not for less intense private) by two themes seemingly away from the sober world of its investigations on the nature: Alchemy, and biblical studies. The fans of Newton by Alchemy (John Maynard Keynes called it "the last of the Magi") was in line with its efforts to transcend the enforcement mechanism strictly Cartesian everything reduced to matter and movement and to establish the effective presence of the spiritual in the operations of nature.
Newton conceived not the cosmos as the creation of a God who had been limited to legislate it then leave it, but as the field where dwelt the divine will and was present, instilling in the atoms that were part of the world a spirit that was the same for all things and that made it possible to believe in the existence of a single general principle of cosmic order. This search for unity in nature by Newton was parallel to his research of the original truth through Scripture, which made him a convinced antitrinitario and tracking which surely influenced in their efforts to get the actual dispensation from the obligation to receive Holy orders to keep his position at Trinity College.

Towards the mathematical natural philosophy principles

In 1679 Newton was absent from Cambridge for several months on the occasion of the death of his mother; upon his return; in the month of November, received a letter from Robert Hooke, then Secretary of the Royal Society, which was trying to persuade him to restore his contact with the institution and suggested him the possibility of doing so commenting on the own Hooke theories about the movement of the planets.
As a result, Newton resumed a correspondence on the subject which, over time, would lead to claims of priority of Hooke with respect to the formulation of the law of gravitational attraction. For the moment, its effect was the return to Newton his interest in the dynamics and make him see that the path followed by a body that moves under the effect of a force inversely proportional to the square of the distance would have elliptic shape (and would not be a spiral, as Newton believed in principle, giving rise to be corrected by Hooke).

According to the visionary painter William Blake Newton
When five years later Edmond Halley, who by then had already observed the Comet which then took its name, visited Newton in Cambridge and asked what would be the orbit of a planet if gravity decrease with the square of the distance, his response was immediate: an ellipse. Amazed by the speed with which Newton considered resolved an issue in which Enlightenment were competing for several months Robert Hooke and the own Halley, astronomer inquired how Newton could know the shape of the curve and won an emphatic answer: «I have calculated it». The distance going between the gleam of truth and its demonstration by calculation made the fundamental difference between Hooke and Newton, at the same time that lit up on the sense that the latter would give to his insistent affirmation of «not feign hypotheses».
However, on that day in the summer of 1684 Newton could not find their calculations to show them to Halley, and had to settle for the promise that would be sent to you once redone. Reconstruction, however, collided with an obstacle: demonstrate that the force of attraction between two spheres is equal to which would exist if the masses of each of them were concentrated in the respective centres. Newton solved that problem in February 1685, after verifying the validity of its law of gravitational attraction through its application to the case of the Moon; the idea, born 20 years earlier, was then confirmed thanks to the accurate measurement of the radius of the Earth made by the French astronomer Jean Picard.
The road was open to meet all results in a treatise on the science of movement: Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (mathematical natural philosophy principles). The intervention of Halley in the publication of the work was not limited to having managed to convince its author's consent to it, something already very meritorious case of Newton; Halley was able to weather the storm of controversy with Hooke, was responsible for the manuscript was presented in April 1686 to the Royal Society and that it took its Edition, and ended up personally at expense of printing, finished in July 1687.

Third edition of the mathematical natural philosophy principles
The mathematical natural philosophy principles contained the first printed exposure for the infinitesimal calculus created by Newton, but the author preferred, in general, the work presented the fundamentals of physics and astronomy formulated synthetic geometry language. Newton was not the first to use that type of calculation; in fact, the first edition of his work contained the recognition that Leibniz was in possession of an analog method. However, the dispute of priorities in which engaged the partisans of one and the other determined that Newton deleted the reference to Leibniz in the third edition of 1726. The trigger for the controversy (orchestrated by the own Newton, backstage) was the insinuation that Leibniz could have committed plagiarism, expressed in 1699 Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, a Swiss mathematician admirer of Newton, which maintained an intimate friendship from 1689 to 1693.
That year Newton went through a paranoiac crisis that has tried to give various explanations, among them not missed, of course, the consistent in attributing it to the breakdown of his relationship with the young Fatio, relationship that, on the other hand, does not seem to bring Newton to bypass the railway barriers of their puritanical moral code. Contemporaries of Newton popularized the unlikely explanation of your condition as a result of which some of his manuscripts were destroyed in a fire; more recently he has spoken of a slow and progressive intoxication for his alchemical experiments with mercury and lead. Finally, not you can forget as a plausible cause depression difficulties found by Newton to get public recognition beyond the strict scope of science, recognition demanded by their arrogance and whose absence could not interpret but as a result of a conspiracy of history.

Last years

Despite the difficulty of reading, mathematical natural philosophy principles had made him famous in the scientific community. In 1687, Newton had formed part of the Commission which Cambridge University sent to London to oppose the catholicization of King Jacobo II measures. Although perhaps his speech was more due to their status as layman to his fame, this earned him to be chosen by the University as his representative in Parliament formed as a result of the landing of William of Orange and the exile of Jacobo II at the end of 1688.
His parliamentary activity, which lasted until February 1690, was developed in close collaboration with Charles Montagu, later lord Halifax, had met who a few years before as a student in Cambridge and who was in charge of fulfilling the wishes of Newton of changing his academic retirement in Cambridge for public life in London. Montagu was appointed Chancellor of the Royal Treasury in April 1694; When his reacunacion Act was passed in 1695, has awarded Newton the position of inspector of the Casa de la Moneda, was promoted to director in 1699. Lord Halifax ended up by becoming the lover of the niece of Newton, although charges obtained by the latter, despite the accusations hurled by Voltaire, did not have to do with the matter.
At the end of 1701, Newton was elected again member of Parliament as a representative of his University, but soon after he resigned definitively to his chair and as fellow of Trinity College, thus confirming a shift away from scientific activity tracing, in fact, upon his arrival in London. In 1703, after the death of Hooke and when the end of the reacunacion had become the address of the Mint in a quiet sinecure, Newton was elected President of the Royal Society, a position he retained until his death. In 1705 was given the title of sir.
Despite his hypochondria, fed from childhood by their condition of premature infant, Newton enjoyed good health until the last years of his life; in early 1722 a kidney condition sick took it seriously for several months, and in 1724 there was a new nephritic colic. In the first days of March 1727, the accommodation of other calculus in bladder marked the beginning of his agony: Newton died at dawn on March 20, after having refused to receive the final aid of the Church, consistent with his loathing of the dogma of the Trinity.

Isaac Newton's chronology

1642Born in Woolsthorpe, Great Britain.
1661He entered Trinity College, Cambridge.
1666First ideas about the law of universal gravitation, raised by the contemplation of the fall of the apples, according to the famous anecdote.
1669It happens to Isaac Barrow as Professor of mathematics.
1671Write method of fluxions and infinite series.
1675Reading in the Royal Society of his hypothesis to explain the properties of light.
1687First edition of the mathematical philosophy of nature principles, which sets the three fundamental laws of physics and the law of universal gravitation.
1688He was elected member of Parliament, on behalf of the University of Cambridge.
1699He was appointed director of the Mint.
1703He was elected President of the Royal Society, a position he occupied until his death.
1704Published the first edition of the optics or treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections and colours of light.
1705You are granted the title of sir.
1713The second edition of the Principia.
1718The second edition of optics.
1727Dies in London.

Work of Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton exerted a momentous influence on the development of scientific thought in the West. He is considered the father of classical physics, and not in vain his two major works, principles of mathematical natural philosophy (1687) and optics (1704), are observed by Thomas S. Kuhn as examples of scientific paradigms, because they constituted models finished and fully assumed by the next generation of researchers, by keeping in force for more than two centuries.


In their speeches and demonstrations mathematics around two new sciences (1638), Galileo had managed to describe the motion of falling bodies and the trajectory of projectiles using mathematical methods. Invalidating the Aristotelian mere speculation about the movement, Galileo had found on a scientific basis the modern cinematic, i.e., the part of the mechanics that studies the movement of the bodies regardless of the forces that produce it.

Isaac Newton
Based on his studies, Newton developed the dynamics, science which deals with the relationships between the forces and movements that they originate. On the mathematical natural philosophy principles, published by insistence (and financing) of his great friend and astronomer Edmond Halley, Newton follows three axioms of the movement of the experiences of Galileo on projectile motion: inertia, the composition of velocities, and the conservation of momentum. And making use of the infinitesimal calculus gets its three famous dynamic laws.

The laws of motion

The first is the law of inertia: a body is at rest, or in uniform rectilinear movement of indefinitely if no force does not act on it. The second is known as the fundamental law of Dynamics: the acceleration that produces a force on a body is directly proportional to the magnitude of the force and inversely proportional to its mass; the expression F = m·a is the mathematical formulation of this law. Finally, the law of action and reaction establishes that if a body exerts one force on another (action), another is exactly the same force, but in the opposite direction, on the first (reaction).
Newton's laws express the relationship between movements and forces. A way of defining the concept of force is like pushing or attraction; pushing a piece of wood on a table surface, there is a force on the workpiece; However, the formulation of Newton has the advantage of offering a more precise definition of the concept of force. The first law of inertia says that a mobile tends to keep moving at a constant speed while any external force acting on it.
Thus, an arrow will move in the direction of the shooting with its original speed while no external force acting upon it. In the Earth's surface, however, there are two forces acting on the arrow: the air friction and gravity. Therefore, to move, the arrow will go slower; the friction with the molecules of the air that passes through will make you lose speed. In addition, because of the gravitational forces, the path followed by the arrow will tilting toward the ground. If the shot had made in a nearly perfect vacuum of outer space, the arrow would have followed moving always in the same direction and at equal speed. Without the presence of air and out of reach of the terrestrial gravitational attraction, the movement of the arrow would have not experienced variation.
The law of inertia also applies to bodies at rest. A body at rest is nothing more than an object whose speed is zero; that object will continue at rest while no force acting on it. The first act is called inertia law because it does not only describe the property of bodies known as inertia. The term inertia simply means that the bodies tend to remain in the State of motion that are, whatever this is, while no external force acting upon them: if they move, they continue to do so in the same way, and if they are at rest, will remain at rest.

Page of the first edition of the Principia
Newton's second law sets definite way the proportionality of the relationship between force and acceleration of the movement. The mathematical expression of this law is F = m·a, where F is the force exerted on a body, m is the mass of the body, and a is the acceleration that is printed you. The term acceleration indicates the speed with which varies the speed of a body. When you hit a ball with a certain force, this acquires certain acceleration; If the force of the blow is duplicated, purchased by the ball acceleration is also multiplied by two. The second law allows you to give a more precise definition of the concept of force: a force is anything able to alter the speed with which a body is moving or the direction of its movement.
Third law of Newton or action and reaction principle asserts that you for every action, there is a reaction that is equal and opposite to it; When a body exerts one force on another, the second exerts a force of equal strength and direction but of opposite direction, over the first. A truck dragging a trailer with a force of the same intensity with which the trailer pulls back without the truck, the trailer standing does not advance, but without the trailer, the truck accelerates more.
The operation of a rocket illustrates simple way the meaning of this Act. A rocket simply consists of a cylinder, open at one end and closed on the other, within which burns a fuel; the hot gases, formed as a result of combustion, escaping through the open end. The output of gases in a direction can be considered action; the third law establishes that this action has to be countered by a reaction, of equal magnitude and opposite direction. The reaction is responsible for the movement of the rocket in the opposite direction to the direction of the exhaust; i.e., while gases escape rocket directed backwards (action), the rocket moves forward (reaction).

Law of universal gravitation

On the basis of the second law or fundamental principle of Dynamics (and sensing that the dynamic calculations would simplify if it meant as equivalent to all the mass concentrated in the geometric center of the bodies, equivalence which showed) and of the laws of the German astronomer Johannes Kepler on the orbits of the planets, Newton deduced the law of universal gravitation whose statement says that any two bodies attract each other with a force that is directly proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance separating them.
Gravity, therefore, is a mutual attraction or a means of two-way between two bodies. A stone falls to the ground because the Earth gravity attracts it down (the mass of the Earth is vastly greater than the mass of the stone). Stone also exerts an attraction on the Earth, but so small that it has no effect. However, when two bodies are more like sizes, this double attraction is more noticeable.

Isaac Newton (portrait of Godfrey Kneller, 1702)
It is what is observed, for example, in the case of the Earth and the moon. The force of Earth's gravity keeps the Moon in orbit around it. If the Moon is not subject to any other force, it would follow a uniform straight-line movement or would be at rest; the combination of the movement in a straight line and the force of attraction explains the orbit of the moon. But, as well as the Earth exerts a force of attraction on the Moon, this exerts a force of attraction on the Earth. This explains the movement of water flowing freely in the oceans: water is attracted to the side of the Earth that is opposite the Moon; It is what is called high tide or high tide.
Newton's laws allow to describe and predict accurately the orbital movements of any celestial body, either a planet, a Comet, an asteroid, an artificial satellite or a space ship. However, the solution provided by Newton works ideally when there are only two bodies involved (such as the Earth and the Moon). The situation becomes incredibly complex when there are three or more forces separate acting together at the same time and all the stars move at the same time. In such a case, each astro is subject to minor changes which are referred to as disturbances.
With the law of universal gravitation, Newton showed that all bodies, close or distant, are subject to the same laws, and that such laws can be shown in mathematical terms with a single theory that it allows to explain and predict both the movements on the surface of our planet as the orbits of the stars; the greatness of his genius lies precisely in this admirable achievement: unification of terrestrial physics and celestial mechanics.
Within Newtonian physics it is precise to emphasize an aspect which occupied an important part of his discussions with Leibniz also: space and time are defined as absolute entities, unrelated to any external object. Newton Dynamics defines a unique reference system for rest and movement that is not related to any body, and time is not defined by any physical process. This conception had prevailed in modern scientific thought, until, at the beginning of the 20th century, Einstein formulated the theory of relativity.

Optics and astronomical observation

Regarding optics, Newton tried to first reduce the chromatic aberration of lenses for telescopes, attempt that failed, but which nevertheless allowed him to discover that white light was a mixture of pure colors, what he called the spectrum. He explained that they appeared since each of them was characterized by a different index of refraction with the glass. He also discovered Newton rings, interference figures that appear when put in contact with flat glass and the other convex.
All these phenomena, and some wave nature as the phenomenon of diffraction, were explained with more or less success on a corpuscular theory, according to which the particles of light travel in rays in straight lines determined by forces acting at a distance, and to find a solid cause a kind of internal vibration.
Also the astronomical observation owes much to Newton, considering that the chromatic aberration of the lens could not be removed, he had the idea of replacing the purpose of telescopes with a mirror. So he built the telescope of reflection, one of the most important astronomical instruments. Optics works, published under the title of optics in 1704, enjoyed over thirty years of uncontested authority, even in spite of the mistakes that contained (for example, the relative to the alleged impossibility of correcting chromatic aberrations of lenses).

Other contributions

In mathematics, Newton and Leibniz created, independently and simultaneously, the infinitesimal calculus. In this field they deserve to be mentioned the works Arithmethica Universalis (1707) and Tractatus de quadratura curvarum, in which the English genius explained the rules of the method of the fluxions, which makes its appearance the concept of infinitesimal, from which are derived the differential and integral calculus. The notation of Newton was considerably more complicated than Leibniz's, which is that finally imposed.
In hydrodynamics, he developed a theory of flow, and discovered transverse minimum of a current that flows through a hole in a tank section is reached on the outside. Those whose viscosity is independent of the speed gradient is known in his honour as Newtonian fluids .
More unknown is his passion for Alchemy, which spent nearly thirty years of his life, and whose work remained hidden for a long time. Newton, who knew the difference between Alchemy and chemistry, considered these works "esoteric" secrets and hid them to their peers, as well as that their Arian, since there are known thought had cost him his chair at Cambridge. After his death, the Earl of Portsmouth, heir to his writings, equally refused to its publication.
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