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The posthumous son of an illiterate yeoman also named Isaacthe fatherless infant was small enough at birth to fit 'into a quartpot.
Much has been made of Newton's posthumous birth, his prolonged separation from his mother, and his unrivaled hatred of his stepfather. Until Hanna returned to Woolsthorpe in after the death of her second husband, Newton was denied his mother's attention, a possible clue to his complex character.
Newton's childhood was anything but happy, and throughout his life he verged on emotional collapse, occasionally falling into violent and vindictive attacks against friend and foe alike. W ith his mother's return to Woolsthorpe inNewton was taken from school to fulfill his birthright as a farmer. Happily, he failed in this calling, and returned to King's School at Grantham to prepare for entrance to Trinity College, Cambridge. Numerous anecdotes survive from this period about Newton's absent-mindedness as a fledging farmer and his lackluster performance as a student.
But the turning point in Newton's life came in June when he left Woolsthorpe for Cambridge University. Here Newton entered a new world, one he could eventually call his own. A lthough Cambridge was an outstanding center of learning, the spirit of the scientific revolution had yet to penetrate its ancient and somewhat ossified curriculum. Little is known of Newton's formal studies as an undergraduate, but he likely received large doses of Aristotle as well as other classical authors.
And by all appearances his academic performance was undistinguished. Barrow, himself a gifted mathematician, had yet to appreciate Newton's genius. I n Newton took his bachelor's degree at Cambridge without honors or distinction. Since the university was closed for the next two years because of plague, Newton returned to Woolsthorpe in midyear. There, in the following 18 months, he made a series of original contributions to science.
As he later recalled, 'All this was in the two plague years of andfor in those days I was in my prime of age for invention, and minded mathematics and philosophy more than at any time since. I n AprilNewton returned to Cambridge and, against stiff odds, was elected a minor fellow Newton lonely woman Trinity. Success followed good fortune.
In the next year he became a senior fellow upon taking his master of arts degree, and inbefore he had reached his 27th birthday, he succeeded Isaac Barrow as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. The duties of this appointment offered Newton the opportunity to organize the of his earlier optical researches, and inshortly after his election to the Royal Society, he communicated his first public paper, a brilliant but no less controversial study on the nature of color. I n the first of a series of bitter disputes, Newton locked horns with the society's celebrated curator of experiments, the bright but brittle Robert Hooke.
The ensuing controversy, which continued untilestablished a pattern in Newton's behavior. After an initial skirmish, he quietly retreated. Nonetheless, in Newton ventured another yet another paper, which again drew lightning, this time charged with claims that he had plagiarized from Hooke. The charges were entirely ungrounded.
Twice burned, Newton withdrew. I nNewton suffered a serious emotional breakdown, and in the following year his mother died.
Newton's response was to cut off contact with others and engross himself in alchemical research. These studies, once an embarrassment to Newton scholars, were not misguided musings but rigorous investigations into the hidden forces of nature. Newton's alchemical studies opened theoretical avenues not found in the mechanical philosophy, the world view that sustained his early work. While the mechanical philosophy reduced all phenomena to the impact of matter in motion, the alchemical tradition upheld the possibility of attraction and repulsion at the particulate level.
Newton's later insights in celestial mechanics can be traced in part to his alchemical interests. By combining action-at-a-distance and mathematics, Newton transformed the mechanical philosophy by adding a mysterious but no less measurable quantity, gravitational force. I nas tradition has it, Newton observed the fall of an apple in his garden at Woolsthorpe, later recalling, 'In the same year I began to think of gravity extending to the orb of the Moon.
In fact, all evidence suggests that the concept of universal gravitation did not spring full-blown from Newton's head in but was nearly 20 years in gestation. Ironically, Robert Hooke helped give it life. In NovemberHooke initiated an exchange of letters that bore on the question of planetary motion.
Although Newton hastily broke off the correspondence, Hooke's letters provided a conceptual link between central attraction and a force falling off with the square of distance. Sometime in earlyNewton appears to have quietly drawn his own conclusions. M eanwhile, in the coffeehouses of London, Hooke, Edmund Halley, and Christopher Wren struggled unsuccessfully with the problem of planetary motion.
Finally, in AugustHalley paid a legendary visit to Newton in Cambridge, hoping for an answer to his riddle: What type of curve does a planet describe in its orbit around the sun, assuming an inverse square law of attraction? When Halley posed the question, Newton's ready response was 'an ellipse. Although Newton had privately answered one of the riddles of the universe--and he alone possessed Newton lonely woman mathematical ability to do so--he had characteristically misplaced the calculation.
After further discussion he promised to send Halley a fresh calculation forthwith. In partial fulfillment of his promise Newton produced his De Motu of From that seed, after nearly two years of intense labor, the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica appeared. Arguably, it is the most important book published in the history of science.
But if the Principia was Newton's brainchild, Hooke and Halley were nothing less than midwives. A lthough the Principia was well received, its future was cast in doubt before it appeared. Here again Hooke was center stage, this time claiming not without justification that his letters of earned him a role in Newton's discovery.
But to no effect. Newton was so furious with Hooke that he threatened to suppress Book III of the Principia altogether, finally denouncing science as 'an impertinently litigious lady. But instead of acknowledging Hooke's contribution Newton systematically deleted every possible mention of Hooke's name. Newton's hatred for Hooke was consumptive. Indeed, Newton later withheld publication of his Opticks and virtually withdrew from the Royal Society until Hooke's death in A fter publishing the PrincipiaNewton became more involved in public affairs.
In he was elected to represent Cambridge in Parliament, and during his stay in London he became acquainted with John Locke, the famous philosopher, and Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, a brilliant Newton lonely woman mathematician who became an intimate friend. Inhowever, Newton suffered a severe nervous disorder, not unlike his breakdown of The cause is open to interpretation: overwork; the stress of controversy; the unexplained loss of friendship with Fatio; or perhaps chronic mercury poisoning, the result of nearly three decades of alchemical research.
Each factor may have played a role. We only know Locke and Samuel Pepys received strange and seemingly deranged letters that prompted concern for Newton's 'discomposure in head, or mind, or both. His new position proved 'most proper,' and he left Cambridge for London without regret. D uring his London years Newton enjoyed power and worldly success. His position at the Mint assured a comfortable social and economic status, and he was an active and able administrator. After the death of Hooke inNewton was elected president of the Royal Society and was annually reelected until his death.
In he published his second major work, the Opticksbased largely on work completed decades before. He was knighted in A lthough his creative years had passed, Newton continued to exercise a profound influence on the development of science. In effect, the Royal Society was Newton's instrument, and he played it to his personal advantage.
His tenure as president has been described as tyrannical and autocratic, and his control over the lives and careers of younger disciples was all but absolute. Newton could not abide contradiction or controversy - his quarrels with Hooke provide singular examples. But in later disputes, as president of the Royal Society, Newton marshaled all the forces at his command.
For example, he published Flamsteed's astronomical observations - the labor of a lifetime - without the author's permission; and in his priority dispute with Leibniz concerning the calculus, Newton enlisted younger men to fight his war of words, while behind the lines he secretly directed charge and countercharge. In the end, the actions of the Society were little more than extensions of Newton's will, and until his death he dominated the landscape of science without rival. Scientific Achievements Mathematics - The origin of Newton's interest in mathematics can be traced to his undergraduate days at Cambridge.
But between and his return to Cambridge after the plague, Newton made fundamental contributions to analytic geometry, algebra, and calculus. Specifically, he discovered the binomial theorem, new methods for expansion of infinite series, and his 'direct and inverse method of fluxions. Hence, a 'fluxion' represents the rate of change of a 'fluent'--a continuously changing or flowing quantity, such as distance, area, or length. In essence, fluxions were the first words in a new language of physics. N ewton's creative years in mathematics extended from to roughly the spring of Although his predecessors had anticipated various elements of the calculus, Newton generalized and integrated these insights while developing new and more rigorous methods.
The essential elements of his thought were presented in three tracts, the first appearing in a privately circulated treatise, De analysi On Analysis ,which went unpublished until InNewton developed a more complete of his method of infinitesimals, which appeared nine years after his death as Methodus fluxionum et serierum infinitarum The Method of Fluxions and Infinite Series In addition to these works, Newton wrote four smaller tracts, two of which were appended to his Opticks of Newton and Leibniz. N ext to its brilliance, the most characteristic feature of Newton's mathematical career was delayed publication.
Newton's priority dispute with Leibniz is a celebrated but unhappy example. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Newton's most capable adversary, began publishing papers on calculus inalmost 20 years after Newton's discoveries commenced. The result of this temporal discrepancy was a bitter dispute that raged for nearly two decades. The ordeal began with rumors that Leibniz had borrowed ideas from Newton and rushed them into print. It ended with charges of dishonesty and outright plagiarism.
The Newton-Leibniz priority dispute--which eventually extended into philosophical areas concerning the nature of God and the universe--ultimately turned on the ambiguity of priority. It is now generally agreed that Newton and Leibniz each developed the calculus independently, and hence they are considered co-discoverers.
But while Newton was the first to conceive and develop his method of fluxions, Leibniz was the first to publish his independent. N ewton's optical research, like his mathematical investigations, began during his undergraduate years at Cambridge. But unlike his mathematical work, Newton's studies in optics quickly became public. Shortly after his election to the Royal Society inNewton published his first paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
This paper, and others that followed, drew on his undergraduate researches as well as his Lucasian lectures at Cambridge. I nNewton performed a of experiments on the composition of light. Guided initially by the writings of Kepler and Descartes, Newton's main discovery was that visible white light is heterogeneous--that is, white light is composed of colors that can be considered primary.
Through a brilliant series of experiments, Newton demonstrated that prisms separate rather than modify white light. Contrary to the theories of Aristotle and other ancients, Newton held that white light is secondary and heterogeneous, while the separate colors are primary and homogeneous.
Of perhaps equal importance, Newton also demonstrated that the colors of the spectrum, once thought to be qualities, correspond to an observed and quantifiable 'degree of Refrangibility. N ewton's most famous experiment, the experimentum crucisdemonstrated his theory of the composition of light. Briefly, in a dark room Newton allowed a narrow beam of sunlight to pass from a small hole in a window shutter through a prism, thus breaking the white light into an oblong spectrum on a board.
Then, through a small aperture in the board, Newton selected a given color for example, red to pass through yet another aperture to a second prism, through which it was refracted onto a second board. What began as ordinary white light was thus dispersed through two prisms. N ewton's 'crucial experiment' demonstrated that a selected color leaving the first prism could not be separated further by the second prism. The selected beam remained the same color, and its angle of refraction was constant throughout. Newton concluded that white light is a 'Heterogeneous mixture of differently refrangible Rays' and that colors of the spectrum cannot themselves be individually modified, but are 'Original and connate properties.
His Lucasian lectures, later published in part as Optical Lecturessupplement other researches published in the Society's Transactions dating from February The Opticks. T he Opticks ofwhich first appeared in English, is Newton's most comprehensive and readily accessible work on light and color. In Newton's words, the purpose of the Opticks was 'not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments.
A subtle blend of mathematical reasoning and careful observation, the Opticks became the model for experimental physics in the 18th century. The Corpuscular Theory. B ut the Opticks contained more than experimental. During the 17th century it was widely held that light, like sound, consisted of a wave or undulatory motion, and Newton's major critics in the field of optics--Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens--were articulate spokesmen for this theory.
But Newton disagreed. Although his views evolved over time, Newton's theory of light was essentially corpuscular, or particulate. In effect, since light unlike sound travels in straight lines and casts a sharp shadow, Newton suggested that light was composed of discrete particles moving in straight lines in the manner of inertial bodies. Further, since experiment had shown that the properties of the separate colors of light were constant and unchanging, so too, Newton reasoned, was the stuff of light itself-- particles. A t various points in his career Newton in effect combined the particle and wave theories of light.
In his earliest dispute with Hooke and again in his Opticks ofNewton considered the possibility of an ethereal substance--an all-pervasive elastic material more subtle than air--that would provide a medium for the propagation of waves or vibrations. From the outset Newton rejected the basic wave models of Hooke and Huygens, perhaps because they overlooked the subtlety of periodicity. T he question of periodicity arose with the phenomenon known as 'Newton's rings.Newton lonely woman
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