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Essay on History of Isaac Newton

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HISTORY OF SIR ISAAC NEWTON

In 1642, Sir Isaac Newton was born to a family of an illiterate yeoman who was also named Isaac and lived in Woolsthorpe, a near Grantham in Lincolnshire. When Newton was just three years old, his mother Hanna decided to remarry and raised a second family with a wealthy businessman called Barnabas Smith. Consequently, Isaac lived a prolonged distant life from his mother and secretly hated his stepfather. Newton never experienced his full mother’s attention thereby making his character very complicated. But the most influential point in his life came in June 1661 when he decided to leave Woolsthorpe for Cambridge University. This place exposed Newton to a new fascinating world, which he could happily call his own. Although this university was a prestigious center for higher education, scientific research had not yet formed solid ground as today. Newton’s formal undergraduate experience made his receive a lot of classical works of many authors such as Aristotle. From all considerations, Newton’s academic performance was not such unique. During his undergraduate years, he seriously engaged in private studies, that he mastered the works some of the renowned scientists. For instance by 1664, Newton had started to master Descartes’s geometry and mathematical equations of Euclid’s Elements (Hatch, 2013).

In the year 1665, Isaac Newton earned his simple bachelor’s degree at Cambridge University and returned to Woolsthorpe. This period marked his prime age for invention since he spent most of his time in mathematics and philosophy. In mathematics, Newton discovered the fluxions method used in infinitesimal calculus. He laid the foundations for his light and color theory and deeply understood the problem of planetary motion. Such important insights later led eventually to the publication of Newton’s principle in 1687. Newton returned to Cambridge and against serious competition, was elected a minor fellow. In the next year, Isaac became a senior fellow at 27 years old after taking his master’s degree thereby succeeding Isaac Barrow as professor of mathematics. The appointment enabled Newton to organize the outcomes of his earlier optical researches. In 1672, after being elected to the Royal Society, he presented his first public document. It was a brilliant study on the nature of color but less controversial.

Newton made a great controversy with Robert Hooke, one of the society’s celebrated experiments guru. The ensuing disagreement continued until 1678, establishing a pattern in Newton’s character. He quietly retreated afterward. Nonetheless, Newton generated another document which was charged with allegations that I’ve he had plagiarized form Robert Hooke. The charges were entirely unjustified (Cohen, 2012).

Newton’s mother died in 1678, giving him a serious emotional breakdown. Consequently, he cut off contact with friends and gave himself fully to alchemical research. Such studies were rigorous research and observations into the secret forces of nature. The alchemical studies proved the possibility of attraction and repulsion forces within particles. Newton transformed the mechanical philosophy by including gravitational force, which was through combining mathematics and action at a distance.

As it has been known for long, in 1666, Newton observed the falling of an apple fruit form a tree. Ironically, the concept of gravitational force did not entirely come from Newton, but Robert Hooke’s contributions helped nature it in a great way. Hooke’s work linked the central attraction and forced falling off within a squared distance. However, Newton alone possessed the mathematical ability to prove that the earth orbital path was an ellipse. Therefore, Hooke was just a midwife on the most important study done by Isaac Newton. Arguably, this formed one of the most important documents in the history of science. Instead of Newton acknowledging Hooke’s efforts, he deleted all possible mentioning of Hooke’s name about his work.

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Newton later became more involved in public affairs after publishing his principles. He was elected a representative of Cambridge in Parliament. However, in 1693, Newton suffered a severe nervous disorder that propelled him to seek a new position in London. In 1693, he was appointed Warden and Master of the Mint. Newton enjoyed the power and worldly success in London since his post at the Mint gave him a comfortable social and economic status. He thereby proved to be an active and able administrator.

After Robert Hooke’s death in 1703, Isaac Newton was elected president of the Royal Society, a post he held annually until his death. Newton published his second major paper, the optics, in 1704, based mainly on his work completed decades before.

Although Newton’s creative years had passed, he continued to play an important role in the development of science as a discipline. In effect, Newton almost personalized the Royal Society, with his tenure as president being autocratic and tyrannical in nature. He directed all the forces of the Royal Society at his command by for instance publishing Flamsteed’s astronomical studies without author’s permit. In the end, the decisions of the Royal Society were just an extension of Newton’s wants. Until his final breath, he dominated the scientific landscape without any opponent (Westfall, 2011).

In general, Newton’s discoveries are divided into three books, with book 1 beginning with definitions and axioms known as the Newton’s laws of motion. The first law states that a body remains in its state of rest, or continuous motion unless acted upon by an external force. The second law implies that the frequency of change of momentum is directly proportional to the motive force impressed on a straight line. The third law states that action and reaction are equal and opposite. Newton followed these axioms to proceed with theorems, propositions, and problems.

In sum, Newton’s efforts united the heavens and the world with a single set of laws which became the intellectual foundation of our current modern world. These formed the most powerful and influential scientific agreements ever published during his lifetime (Hatch, 2013).

Newton did a research in theology and history with a similar zeal that he pursued science and alchemy. In today’s standards of book length, Newton’s writing on biblical and theological subjects are equivalent to twenty books. These tell us a lot about Isaac Newton’s determination and competence. Although he was raised in a Protestant tradition, his mature observations on theology were neither traditional, Protestant nor Orthodox. Newton rejected a host of doctrinal traditions which he considered irrational and superstitious (Cohen, 2012).

A quest for coherence and unity can be vividly observed in Newton’s research outside of science. His objective was to unite belief and knowledge to harmonize the book of scripture with the book of nature. Newton’s elegance and boldness are very admirable and encouraging to me as a scholar and as a student of nature. In the end, this great name of Isaac Newton remains an enigma to us and a great source of motivation to the scholars of this current century (Hatch, 2013).

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References: History of Isaac Newton

Cohen, I. B. (2012). The Newtonian Revolution. History of Isaac Newton, 50-51.

Hatch, R. A. (2013). Sir Isaac Newton. The Scientific Revolution Homepage, 288-290.

Westfall, R. S. (2011). The Construction of Modern Science. Mechanism and Mechanics, 305-307.