Isaac Newton Childhood and Youth
Isaac Newton was born on 25th December 1642 at Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, in the Lincolnshire County. Newton was born a posthumous son (his father had died 3 months before his birth). From an early age of 12 till he turned 17, Newton went to The King's School in Grantham. Newton turned himself into the best student in his school.
He went to Trinity College, Cambridge in June, 1661. Newton read a lot of philosophical writings of Descartes and showed great interest in Astronomy as well. He read ideas of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. Newton received his degree in August 1665. The college closed down due to the Great Plague but Newton continued his researches on mathematical theories like generalised binomial theorem. This theory was later developed into infinitesimal calculus. For few years after the plague, Newton spent all his private time in developing his theories on calculus, optics and the law of gravitation.
The year 1667 saw Newton in Cambridge as a fellow student of Trinity College.
In 1669 a series of events led Newton’s selection as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Newton replaced Isaac Barrow for the prestigious post.
Mid-life and Career
Newton’s major work revolved around mathematics. In a manuscript that came up in October 1666 (which later went on to become a renowned mathematical paper) Newton referred to calculus. In June 1669, Newton’s manuscript on infinite equations was sent to John Collins by Isaac Barrow. Barrow referred to Newton in his letter to Collins. Newton was referred to as an ‘extraordinary genius’ by Barrow in August 1669.
Newton came into trouble by having differences of opinion with Leibniz on certain areas of infinitesimal calculus. Newton and Leibniz are known to be independent developers of infinitesimal calculus. Newton published his book (a very notable mathematical book of theories) ‘Principia’ on 5th July 1687. Newton had been sceptical in publishing his journal on calculus as he feared criticism.
Newton got some relief when Leibniz was accused of attempting plagiarism. Newton was one of the members of the Royal Society which carried out a dispute (against Leibniz) that continued from 1699 - 1711. In 1669 Newton was appointed as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.
Discoveries and Theories
Newton had always shown great interest in optics – a major branch in physics. He started finding explanations and discoveries in the optical properties of light. Newton gave out lectures on the optical field from 1670 to 1672. Newton discovered how a prism worked. His thorough investigation on dispersion of light and prism’s ability to decompose a streak of white light into a spectrum of colours started making waves around the world. People started taking note of the immense possibilities of light and its reflections. Standing on this find, Newton stated that a lens could use the spectrum to form white light. Newton came up with his famous Newton's theory of colour. Newton developed the first ever reflecting telescope in 1668.
The year 1671 brought great encouragement for Newton’s researches. The Royal Society asked him to discuss and show how his reflecting telescope worked. Newton was thrilled with the huge interest shown in his new theories surrounding telescope. This made him bring out a collection of his notes ‘On Colour’. This later got published as ‘Opticks’ (1704).
Newton became famous mostly because of his theories of gravitation and mechanics. Sir Isaac Newton started off again with celestial mechanics and the effects of gravitational pull on all the planets and their orbits. His theory of gravitation got a major boost with a comet appearing in the winter of 1680-1681.
Soon after this, Newton started recording all his researches surrounding the movement of planetary orbits. During this period Newton propounded the law of universal gravitation.
Newton published ‘Principia’ on 5th July 1687. This book had discussions on the three universal laws of motion. The industrial revolution took great help from this theory. A number of machineries were developed and invented based on the theory of gravitation. Principia made Newton an international figure. Newton was followed and respected by several admirers around the world.
Achievements and Accolades
Newton joined as a member of the English Parliament in 1689 and remained a member till 1690 and 1701.
Newton got to shift his base to London where he joined as the warden for the Royal Mint in 1696. Newton later became the very famous Master of the Mint. Newton’s achievement as the master of the mint made him develop new highs in English economy. Newton changed silver British pound sterling to gold.
Newton achieved a new high by becoming the President of the Royal Society in 1703. In the same year Newton was chosen to be associated with the ‘French Académie des Sciences.’
Newton reached the zenith of his life and career when he was awarded a Knighthood by Queen Anne in April 1705. Queen Anne made Newton a Knight during her visit to Trinity College, Cambridge.
Newton got linked with religious norms during his fellowship in Trinity College, Cambridge. Being an unorthodox individual Newton could avoid becoming a priest (a rule in order to pursue fellowships) but not for long. He started facing problems during his appointment as Lucasian Professor. In 1690s Newton took up writing on Bible. He wrote several religious tracts that were based on interpretations of Bible.
Newton was a believer in one god. Idol worship was like a sin for Newton. According to Stephen D. Snobelen, Newton was a ‘heretic’.
Newton religiously wrote and formulated on ideas that were criticised. Newton’s interpretations of Bible and its hidden messages, criticism of faults and corruptions in biblical scriptures made Newton look like a non-believer.
Several laws and religious theories of Newton were later used to develop the base of ideas promoted by pantheists and enthusiasts. Newton’s scientific discoveries and natural philosophies were later used by English free thinkers in formulating and developing a possible "Natural Religion".
Newton died a natural death in his sleep in London on 20 March 1727. During his old age he stayed with his niece, residing in Cranbury Park, near Winchester. Newton was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Newton’s body was found to have huge amounts of mercury. After his death his body was examined and it was stated that his entire chemical researches and tests had a heavy bearing on his body. There have been people who have stated that the high levels of mercury in his body might have resulted in Newton’s eccentricity in the later years of the mathematics genius.