Issac Newton By James Nix

Born in 1643 in Woolsthorpe, England, Sir Isaac Newton began developing his influential theories on light, calculus and celestial mechanics while on break from Cambridge University.

Isaac Newton was born on January 4, 1643, in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England. The son of a farmer, who died three months before he was born, Newton spent most of his early years with his maternal grandmother after his mother remarried. His education interrupted by a failed attempt to turn him into a farmer, he attended the King’s School in Grantham before enrolling at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College in 1661.

Newton studied a classical curriculum at Cambridge, but he became fascinated by the works of modern philosophers such as René Descartes, even devoting a set of notes to his outside readings he titled “Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae” (“Certain Philosophical Questions”). When the Great Plague shuttered Cambridge in 1665, Newton returned home and began formulating his theories on calculus, light and color, his farm the setting for the supposed falling apple that inspired his work on gravity.

Newton returned to Cambridge in 1667 and was elected a minor fellow. He constructed the first reflecting telescope in 1668, and the following year he received his Master of Arts degree and took over as Cambridge’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Asked to give a demonstration of his telescope to the Royal Society of London in 1671, he was elected to the Royal Society the following year and published his notes on optics for his peers.

Through his experiments with refraction, Newton determined that white light was a composite of all the colors on the spectrum, and he asserted that light was composed of particles instead of waves. His methods drew sharp rebuke from established Society member Robert Hooke, who was unsparing again with Newton’s follow-up paper in 1675. Known for his temperamental defense of his work, Newton engaged in heated correspondence with Hooke before suffering a nervous breakdown and withdrawing from the public eye in 1678. In the following years, he returned to his earlier studies on the forces governing gravity.

"To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction"

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