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Facts About Sir Isaac Newton: 10 Interesting Facts You Didn't Know

written by: Anurag Ghosh•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 11/20/2011

Inspired by the ideas of modern thinkers and astronomers, Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravitation and the three laws of motion. Modern science is indebted to Newton’s theories, methods and ideas. Here are some of the most interesting facts about Sir Isaac Newton.

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    Sir Isaac Newton Facts: Biography

    Birth: 25 December 1642 (4th of January 1643, as per the Gregorian calendar)

    Birth Place: Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a small village in the county of Lincolnshire, England

    Religious Inclination: Newton was adevout Christian, but he supported Arianism in his later years.

    Fields: Mathematics, physics, astronomy, theology, alchemy, natural philosophy

    Schooling and College years:

    • At the age of 12, Newton attended The King’s School in Grantham, Lincolnshire in 1654.
    • He joined the prestigious Trinity College, Cambridge in June 1661 (as a sizar - a student who received free lodging and food - a scholarship).
    • He obtained his bachelor’s degree in August 1665.
    • On October 2, 1667, Newton was nominated minor fellow of the Trinity College.
    • Newton was appointed Major Fellow of the Trinity College on March 16, 1668 and was granted Masters Degree on July 7, 1668.
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    Achievements and Honors

    Key Achievements: Calculus, theory of universal gravitation, Newtonian mechanics, visible spectrum of light

    A 1689 Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton Notable Honors:

    • Newton became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in October 1669.
    • He was appointed as the Fellow of the Royal Society of London on January 11, 1672.
    • On February 3, 1700 Newton accepted the Master of the Mint position and...
    • On November 30, 1703, he accepted the chair of the President of Royal Society.
    • He was knighted on April 16, 1705 by Queen Anne in Cambridge, which earned him the title ‘Sir’. He was honored knighthood not for his scientific achievements, but for his dedicated service for the Mint and for his political activities.

    Death: 20 March 1727 (31st of March, 1727, as per the Gregorian calendar)

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    Notable Achievements of Sir Isaac Newton

    Here are some key achievements and interesting facts about Sir Isaac Newton:

    A 1712 Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton 1. During his college years, Isaac Newton was more interested in the concepts of modern astronomers and thinkers such as Kepler, Galileo and Copernicus than what was taught in the college’s curriculum, The college’s teachings were mainly based on Aristotle’s ideas and teachings.

    2. Sir Isaac Newton developed the generalized binomial theorem in 1665. After obtaining his degree, Newton spent two years studying at home as a precaution against the Great Plague. During these years, he began developing theories on the law of gravitation, optics and calculus.

    3. One of the key mathematical achievements of Newton was the development of infinitesimal calculus. The calculus was also the center point of an intellectual battle between him and another mathematician Gottfried Leibniz over who had first developed the method.

    Newton published few accounts of the calculus in 1693 and the full portion in 1704, whereas Leibniz published his complete papers in 1684. Newton and his supporters alleged that Leibniz had some access to Newton’s unpublished works during his London visit. This raised some questions on whether or not Leibniz’s full calculus account was based on Newton’s concept. Most modern historians and scientists believe that Leibniz did not plagiarize Newton’s works.

    4. The Newtonian telescope, a type of reflecting telescope, was developed by Newton in 1668. It was the first functional telescope in the history of reflecting telescopes. Today, the Newtonian telescope is quite popular among amateur astronomers.

    5. Sir Isaac Newton was one of the proponents of particle theory, which suggests that light is made up of particles and not waves.

    6. He published all three books of his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (known popularly as Principia) between 1686 and 1687. These books dealt specifically with the theory of gravitation and three laws of motion. They also featured many other important studies including studies on Earth’s spheroidal figures, the precession of equinoxes, a theory on cometary orbits, the Moon’s irregular motions and much more. Interestingly, Newton’s three books were published only because of Edmund Halley’s financial aid.

    7. In 1665, Sir Isaac Newton began working on a theory that white light is a combination of different colors through his popular ‘prism’ experiment.He published his observations on his discovery on the spectrum of light in his Opticks (Optics) in 1704.

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    Interesting Facts on Sir Isaac Newton

    There are many interesting facts about Sir Isaac Newton, including facts about his religious inclination, his love for the bible, philosophical works and his personal life.

    1. Sir Isaac Newton wrote more about religion and the Bible than about astronomy, mathematics or physics.He studied the Bible mainly to extract scientific information. In 1704, Newton wrote a manuscript, which contained different scientific notes based on the Holy Bible. One of his most fascinating observations in the manuscript was a prediction that Earth will end in 2060!Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel 

    2. One of the interesting facts about Sir Isaac Newton is his deep interest in Alchemy. He wrote around 169 books dealing with this mysterious science and its characteristics. He also experimented with alchemy using various elements like lead and mercury. Isaac Newton’s aim was to find the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life through his experiments. During his experiments, Newton suffered from lead poisoning during his alchemical experiments!

    3. The story of a falling apple that inspired Newton’s theory of gravitation is actually popularized by the famous author Voltaire.

    4. His intellectual tiff with German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz over calculus is quite well-known. He and his supporters accused Leibniz of plagiarism and a report was issued by the Royal Society to prove this. The report concluded that Leibniz was a fraud and Newton was the true inventor of the Calculus. Later, it was found that Newton himself wrote the concluding comments!

    5. At first, young Newton was not very good in his studies. One day, he was beaten by a school bully in his class. Enraged, he challenged that boy in a fight and won. But, young Newton was still not satisfied with this, he wanted to teach him a lesson in the academic field as well and so he focused more on his studies. This was an important moment in Newton’s life as it set the foundation for his future academic success and historic discoveries.

References

  • “Isaac Newton". Scidiv.bellevucollege.edu http://scidiv.bellevuecollege.edu/MATH/Newton.html
  • Fowler, Michael (Physics Dept., U.Va.). “Newton’s Life", http://galileo.phys.virginia.edu/classes/109N/lectures/newton.html
  • Isaac Newton History (BBC) http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/newton_isaac.shtml
  • “Falling Apple Story". Sfu.ca http://www.sfu.ca/physics/ugrad/courses/teaching_resources/demoindex/mechanics/mech1l/apple.html
  • Craigen, Doug. “Isaac Newton Short Stories", http://www.dctech.com/eureka/short-stories/newton.php
  • White, Michael. Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. Da Capo Press. (1999)
  • Image Credit: Sir Isaac Newton's love for the Holy Bible. The image above is from his book "Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John", published in 1733. Courtesy: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Observations_upon_the_Prophecies_of_Daniel.png (Project Gutenberg Archives).
  • Nova: Newton's Dark Secrets (2005). PBS Nova http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/newton/
  • “Sir Isaac Newton". (2011). Biography.com. http://www.biography.com/people/isaac-newton-9422656
  • “Newton's Views on Prophecy, Revelation and the End of Times." The Newton Project. http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/prism.php?id=74
  • Snobelen, Stephen D. "A time and times and the dividing of time: Isaac Newton, the Apocalypse and A.D. 2060." http://www.isaac-newton.org/newton_2060.htm
  • Sir Isaac Newton Portrait by Sir James Thornhill, courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Newton_25.jpg
  • Image Credit: Sir Isaac Newton Portrait by Sir James Thornhill Under Public Domaoncourtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Newton_25.jpg
  • Friedman, Matti. "Papers Show Isaac Newton's Religious Side, Predict Date of Apocalypse." http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/discoveries/2007-06-19-newton-religious-papers_N.htm
  • Hatch, Robert. “Newton Timeline, A Chronology of Isaac Newton’s
    Life - Work – Publication", http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/ufhatch/pages/13-NDFE/newton/05-newton-timeline-m.htm
  • Smith, George, "Isaac Newton", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/newton/
  • Image Credit: Sir Isaac Newton Portrait by Godfrey Kneller Under Public Domain http://www.newton.cam.ac.uk/art/portrait.html

  • Hatch, Robert. “Isaac Newton’s Biography – Newton’s Life, Career, Work", http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/ufhatch/pages/01-courses/current-courses/08sr-newton.htm