Physicists Biographies

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton is recognized as one of the great scientists in the history of mankind, making significant contributions in fields of knowledge such as mathematics, astronomy and physics. He was a professor at Trinity College, Cambridge. His work and studies resulted in Newton’s laws and the law of universal gravitation.

Biography of Isaac Newton

  • birth and youth

Isaac Newton was born in the village of Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth in Lincolnshire, England. His birth took place on his family’s farm called Woolsthorpe Manor. In the calendar at the time, Isaac Newton’s birth coincided with Christmas 1642 , hence December 25.

However, at that time, England used the Julian calendar. As we currently use the Gregorian calendar, Isaac Newton’s precise date of birth is January 4, 1643 . He never got to know his father (also called Isaac Newton), who died months before his son was born. Newton’s mother was named Hannah Ayscough.

Newton ‘s childhood was a bit of a lonely one , particularly from the age of three, when his mother married Barnabas Smith. After getting married, Hannah abandoned Isaac, leaving him in the care of her grandmother. Meanwhile, she moved in with Barnabas, with whom she had three other children.

When the boy was 11, his mother moved back in with him after Barnabas passed away. At the age of 12, he was sent to a school known as the Grantham Grammar School. Newton was marked as a slack and absent-minded student , although there are records of his teachers pointing out that he was an intelligent student.

At age 17, his mother made him return to their home in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth. She wanted Newton to learn how to run the family farm and business, since he was her eldest son. However, Newton had little interest in these matters and, at the age of 18, he was sent again to study, this time in Cambridge.

  • Adult life and scientific discoveries

Newton entered Trinity College in 1661 and began his studies as a “ subsizar ”, a category in which he paid for his studies by providing services to other students. It was not until 1664 that he gained the right to study (called a scholarship ) without having to render services.

At Trinity College, Isaac Newton obtained a bachelor ‘s degree in 1664 and a master’s degree in arts in 1667. We perceive, therefore, that Newton’s studies took place in the humanities. His interest in mathematics was consolidated in 1663, when he began to read some books on this area of ​​knowledge at the encouragement of a professor named Isaac Barrow.

The studies carried out by Newton made him one of the great names in mathematics , formulating theories that are important to this day. In 1665, for example, he elaborated on the binomial theorem, also known as Newton ‘s binomial , a theory that allowed the development of calculus, a branch of mathematics. He also carried out important studies in the field of optics, physics and astronomy .

The theories that Newton developed between 1665 and 1667 caught the attention of his teacher and friend Isaac Barrow, who even sent Newton’s writings to other important mathematicians in England, so that they could appreciate what had been produced. However, Newton asked for the writings to be returned, as he greatly feared that his production would be criticized.

This productive period in Isaac Newton’s life came at a very complicated time. England was facing an outbreak of the bubonic plague, and Trinity College remained closed between June 1665 and March 1666 and between June 1666 and April 1667. The outbreak mainly hit London and resulted in the deaths of around 100,000 people.

In this period, Newton would have returned to his residence in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, and one of his great theories, supposedly, would have been developed during this period of isolation and quarantine . Many scholars claim that by observing the fall of apples on his family’s property, he formulated the law of universal gravitation .

In this episode, Newton would have watched an apple fall and then began to wonder why the apple always fell towards the ground. In this sense, he began to wonder about the possibility of there being a force that always attracted bodies to the center of the Earth. The law of universal gravitation was born , summarized by Isaac Newton as follows:

It is worth mentioning that there is a lot of controversy about this episode involving the apple , and there are those who consider it a legend. However, researchers have presented documentary evidence that this may indeed have happened. However, we don’t know whether Newton watched the apple fall from afar or if the apple actually landed on his head, as many believe.

It is also believed that in this period he would also have formulated an outline of the three laws of motion, known as Newton ‘s laws . However, these laws were only published in 1687 and served to explain the motion of bodies. The three laws are as follows:

  • Newton’s 1st law : law of inertia;
  • Newton’s 2nd law : law of superposition of forces;
  • Newton’s 3rd law : law of action and reaction.

All these theories developed by Newton were only possible because the English scientist had access to important writings by other scientists , such as Kepler , Galileo and Copernicus . Newton himself recognized the contribution of other scholars to his work and even wrote in a letter that he could only see farther because he was on the shoulders of giants.

  • Last years

In 1669 Newton was appointed as Lucasian professor at Trinity College , to replace his former professor Isaac Barrow. He got the job through a nomination by Barrow himself.

At the time, to take up the position of professor at Cambridge, it was necessary for one to take up a position as a priest in the Anglican Church. However, Isaac Newton was able to waive this requirement after the King of England himself, Charles II, sent a letter with this order. From a personal and religious point of view, this was very important to Newton, for although he was raised in an Anglican home, he had nontraditional religious views for the time . Recent documents point out that Newton was an Arian , that is, he did not believe in the Trinity theory.

Newton’s religious views might have gotten him into trouble, but he managed to hide his views very well. As part of his personal life, he was unmarried and childless, and some researchers believe he died a virgin. Scholars of Newton’s life also claim that he didn’t have many skills for personal relationships and there are those who believe he might have had a schizoid personality disorder .

Isaac Newton’s contributions to science have earned him important honors such as the Fellow of the Royal Society , an award given to people who make significant contributions to the scientific development of humanity. This award was given to Newton in 1672, and with it, he became a member of the Royal Society .

Isaac Newton had a long life, but from the 1690s onwards he began to develop psychic problems, which resulted in some nervous breakdowns, which made him an even more difficult person to live with. His death took place on March 31, 1727 , when he was 84 years old. To this day he is one of the most important scientists in history.

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