ny¡t´n), Sir Isaac
English mathematician and scientist who invented differential calculus and formulated the theories of universal gravitation, terrestrial mechanics, and color. His treatise on gravitation, presented in Principia Mathematica (1687), was supposedly inspired by the sight of a falling apple.
- Newtonian adjective
Newton, Sir Isaac
Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727), English mathematician and physicist, considered one of the greatest scientists in history. Born in Lincolnshire, Newton was educated at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, and became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the university. In 1696 he moved to London, where he supervised the Royal Mint and, in 1703, became president of the Royal Society.
Newton's first achievement was in mathematics. In 1666 he generalized the methods used to draw tangents to curves and to calculate the area swept by curves. Recognizing that the two procedures were inverse operations, he joined them in what he called the fluxional method, a kind of mathematics now known as calculus. German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz independently discovered nearly the same method, calling it differential calculus, and published before Newton did, but Newton did his work earlier.
Another area of Newton's early interests was optics. He explained color by saying that sun light is a blend of different rays, each representing a different color. He further explained that reflection and refraction cause colors to appear by separating light into its components. Newton demonstrated his theory of colors by passing a beam of sunlight through a prism, which separated the beam into different colors. In 1704 Newton published Opticks, which explained his theories in detail.
In the late 1680s, inspired
by a discussion with British astronomer and mathematician Edmund Halley
about orbital motion, Newton established the modern science of dynamics
by formulating his three laws of motion. When Newton applied these laws
to the laws of orbital motion formulated by the German astronomer Johannes
Kepler, he derived the law of universal gravitation. Newton is probably
best known for this discovery, which explains that all objects in space
and on earth are affected by the force
called gravity. His famous book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica
(1687) detailed his findings and marked a turning point in science.