Cohen and A.

Turnbull, H. The Mathematical Discoveries of Newton. London, England: Blackie and Sons, Westfall, R. The Life of Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, New York: Cambridge University Press, White, M.

## Isaac Newton Biography

Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, Branch of Science. Newton, Isaac English physicist and mathematician who was born into a poor farming family. Luckily for humanity, Newton was not a good farmer, and was sent to Cambridge to study to become a preacher.

At Cambridge, Newton studied mathematics, being especially strongly influenced by Euclid , although he was also influenced by Baconian and Cartesian philosophies. Newton was forced to leave Cambridge when it was closed because of the plague, and it was during this period that he made some of his most significant discoveries. With the reticence he was to show later in life, Newton did not, however, publish his results. Newton suffered a mental breakdown in and was still recovering through In response to a letter from Hooke , he suggested that a particle, if released, would spiral in to the center of the Earth.

Hooke wrote back, claiming that the path would not be a spiral, but an ellipse. Newton, who hated being bested, then proceeded to work out the mathematics of orbits. Again, he did not publish his calculations. Newton then began devoting his efforts to theological speculation and put the calculations on elliptical motion aside, telling Halley he had lost them Westfall , p.

Halley , who had become interested in orbits, finally convinced Newton to expand and publish his calculations. Newton devoted the period from August to spring to this task, and the result became one of the most important and influential works on physics of all times, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy , often shortened to Principia Mathematica or simply "the Principia. Book II presented Newton's new scientific philosophy which came to replace Cartesianism.

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Finally, Book III consisted of applications of his dynamics, including an explanation for tides and a theory of lunar motion. To test his hypothesis of universal gravitation, Newton wrote Flamsteed to ask if Saturn had been observed to slow down upon passing Jupiter. The surprised Flamsteed replied that an effect had indeed been observed, and it was closely predicted by the calculations Newton had provided. Newton's equations were further confirmed by observing the shape of the Earth to be oblate spheroidal , as Newton claimed it should be, rather than prolate spheroidal , as claimed by the Cartesians.

Newton's equations also described the motion of Moon by successive approximations, and correctly predicted the return of Halley's Comet. Newton also correctly formulated and solved the first ever problem in the calculus of variations which involved finding the surface of revolution which would give minimum resistance to flow assuming a specific drag law. Newton invented a scientific method which was truly universal in its scope.

Newton presented his methodology as a set of four rules for scientific reasoning. These rules were stated in the Principia and proposed that 1 we are to admit no more causes of natural things such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances, 2 the same natural effects must be assigned to the same causes, 3 qualities of bodies are to be esteemed as universal, and 4 propositions deduced from observation of phenomena should be viewed as accurate until other phenomena contradict them.

These four concise and universal rules for investigation were truly revolutionary. By their application, Newton formulated the universal laws of nature with which he was able to unravel virtually all the unsolved problems of his day. Newton went much further than outlining his rules for reasoning, however, actually describing how they might be applied to the solution of a given problem.

The analytic method he invented far exceeded the more philosophical and less scientifically rigorous approaches of Aristotle and Aquinas. Newton refined Galileo's experimental method, creating the compositional method of experimentation still practiced today. In fact, the following description of the experimental method from Newton's Optics could easily be mistaken for a modern statement of current methods of investigation, if not for Newton's use of the words "natural philosophy" in place of the modern term "the physical sciences.

This analysis consists of making experiments and observations, and in drawing general conclusions from them by induction This is the method of analysis: and the synthesis consists in assuming the causes discovered and established as principles, and by them explaining the phenomena preceding from them, and proving the explanations. However, he did not publish his work on calculus until afterward Leibniz had published his. This led to a bitter priority dispute between English and continental mathematicians which persisted for decades, to the detriment of all concerned.

Newton discovered that the binomial theorem was valid for fractional powers, but left it for Wallis to publish which he did, with appropriate credit to Newton. Newton formulated a theory of sound, but derived a speed which did not agree with his experiments. The reason for the discrepancy was that the concept of adiabatic propagation did not yet exist, so Newton's answer was too low by a factor of , where is the ratio of heat capacities of air.

Newton therefore fudged his theory until agreement was achieved Engineering and Science, pp. In Optics , whose publication Newton delayed until Hooke's death, Newton observed that white light could be separated by a prism into a spectrum of different colors, each characterized by a unique refractivity, and proposed the corpuscular theory of light. Newton's views on optics were born out of the original prism experiments he performed at Cambridge. In his "experimentum crucis" crucial experiment , he found that the image produced by a prism was oval-shaped and not circular, as current theories of light would require.

He observed a half-red, half-blue string through a prism , and found the ends to be disjointed. He also observed Newton's rings , which are actually a manifestation of the wave nature of light which Newton did not believe in. Newton believed that light must move faster in a medium when it is refracted towards the normal, in opposition to the result predicted by Huygens's wave theory. Newton also formulated a system of chemistry in Query 31 at the end of Optics. In this corpuscular theory, "elements" consisted of different arrangements of atoms, and atoms consisted of small, hard, billiard ball-like particles.

According to this common myth, Newton was sitting under an apple tree when a fruit fell and hit him on the head, inspiring him to suddenly come up with the theory of gravity. While there is no evidence that the apple actually hit Newton on the head, he did see an apple fall from a tree, leading him to wonder why it fell straight down and not at an angle. Consequently, he began exploring the theories of motion and gravity. It was during this month hiatus as a student that Newton conceived many of his most important insights—including the method of infinitesimal calculus, the foundations for his theory of light and color, and the laws of planetary motion—that eventually led to the publication of his physics book Principia and his theory of gravity.

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In , following 18 months of intense and effectively nonstop work, Newton published Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy , most often known as Principia. Its publication immediately raised Newton to international prominence. Principia offers an exact quantitative description of bodies in motion, with three basic but important laws of motion:.

Force is equal to mass times acceleration, and a change in motion i. In Newton's account, gravity kept the universe balanced, made it work, and brought heaven and Earth together in one great equation. Among the dissenters was Robert Hooke , one of the original members of the Royal Academy and a scientist who was accomplished in a number of areas, including mechanics and optics. While Newton theorized that light was composed of particles, Hooke believed it was composed of waves. Hooke quickly condemned Newton's paper in condescending terms, and attacked Newton's methodology and conclusions.

Hooke was not the only one to question Newton's work in optics. But because of Hooke's association with the Royal Society and his own work in optics, his criticism stung Newton the worst. Unable to handle the critique, he went into a rage—a reaction to criticism that was to continue throughout his life. Newton denied Hooke's charge that his theories had any shortcomings and argued the importance of his discoveries to all of science.

In the ensuing months, the exchange between the two men grew more acrimonious, and soon Newton threatened to quit the Royal Society altogether. He remained only when several other members assured him that the Fellows held him in high esteem. The rivalry between Newton and Hooke would continue for several years thereafter. Then, in , Newton suffered a complete nervous breakdown and the correspondence abruptly ended. The death of his mother the following year caused him to become even more isolated, and for six years he withdrew from intellectual exchange except when others initiated correspondence, which he always kept short.

### Experiments in Optics

During his hiatus from public life, Newton returned to his study of gravitation and its effects on the orbits of planets. Ironically, the impetus that put Newton on the right direction in this study came from Robert Hooke. In a letter of general correspondence to Royal Society members for contributions, Hooke wrote to Newton and brought up the question of planetary motion, suggesting that a formula involving the inverse squares might explain the attraction between planets and the shape of their orbits.

Subsequent exchanges transpired before Newton quickly broke off the correspondence once again. But Hooke's idea was soon incorporated into Newton's work on planetary motion, and from his notes it appears he had quickly drawn his own conclusions by , though he kept his discoveries to himself. In early , in a conversation with fellow Royal Society members Christopher Wren and Edmond Halley, Hooke made his case on the proof for planetary motion. Both Wren and Halley thought he was on to something, but pointed out that a mathematical demonstration was needed.

In August , Halley traveled to Cambridge to visit with Newton, who was coming out of his seclusion. Halley idly asked him what shape the orbit of a planet would take if its attraction to the sun followed the inverse square of the distance between them Hooke's theory. Newton knew the answer, due to his concentrated work for the past six years, and replied, "An ellipse.

Upon the publication of the first edition of Principia in , Robert Hooke immediately accused Newton of plagiarism, claiming that he had discovered the theory of inverse squares and that Newton had stolen his work. The charge was unfounded, as most scientists knew, for Hooke had only theorized on the idea and had never brought it to any level of proof. Newton, however, was furious and strongly defended his discoveries.

He withdrew all references to Hooke in his notes and threatened to withdraw from publishing the subsequent edition of Principia altogether. Halley, who had invested much of himself in Newton's work, tried to make peace between the two men. While Newton begrudgingly agreed to insert a joint acknowledgment of Hooke's work shared with Wren and Halley in his discussion of the law of inverse squares, it did nothing to placate Hooke.

As the years went on, Hooke's life began to unravel.

## Isaac Newton - Facts, Biography & Laws - HISTORY

His beloved niece and companion died the same year that Principia was published, in As Newton's reputation and fame grew, Hooke's declined, causing him to become even more bitter and loathsome toward his rival. To the very end, Hooke took every opportunity he could to offend Newton.

Knowing that his rival would soon be elected president of the Royal Society, Hooke refused to retire until the year of his death, in Following the publication of Principia , Newton was ready for a new direction in life.