Isaac Newton Essay, Research Paper

Thesis

Statement: Through his early life experiences and with the knowledge left by his

predecessors, Sir Isaac Newton was able to develop calculus, natural forces, and

optics.

From

birth to early childhood, Isaac Newton overcame many personal, social, and

mental hardships. It is through these experiences that helped create the person

society knows him as in this day and age. The beginning of these obstacles

started at birth for Newton. Isaac was born premature on Christmas Day 1642, in

the manor house of Woolsthorpe, 7 miles south of Grantham in Lincolnshire. It is

said that ?Because Galileo, . . . had died that year, a significance attaches

itself to 1642? (Westfall 1). Though his father had died before Isaac was

born, he was given his father?s name. He was born into a farming family that

had worked their way slowly up the ?social ladder?. The Newton?s were one

of the few families to prosper in Lincolnshire (Westfall 1). At the age of three

Isaac?s life would take a drastic turn. When Isaac was three his mother,

Hannah Ayscough, remarried to the Reverend Barnabas Smith (Internet-newtonia).

Isaac and the Reverend never got along and the Reverend would not have a child

that was not his living with him. Isaac stayed with his grandparents when his

mother went to live with the Reverend in North Witham. His maternal grandmother

raised Isaac until he was ten. It is believed that his mother?s second

marriage and her leaving caused many problems for Isaac as a child. While living

with his grandparents he attended day school nearby in Skillington and Stoke.

Isaac was surrounded by many cousins and other family members in the surrounding

area though, ?He formed no bond with any of his numerous relatives that can be

traced later in his life? (Westfall 11). In 1653 his mother returned after her

second husband died. With her she brought one half brother and two half sisters.

Although it is not known, bitterness may have inflicted Isaac when his three new

siblings arrived. Never the less, two years later at the age of twelve he was

sent to Grantham to attend grammar school. While attending grammar school Isaac

lived with the apothecary Mr. Clark (Westfall 12). Mr. Clark had three

stepchildren from the first marriage of his wife, Miss Storer, who were also

living in his house. In school and at home Isaac was apparently different and

did not get along with any other boys. He was often in fights and remembered

only one nice boy from school, Chrichloe. All the other boys seemed to hate him.

He was more comfortable in the company of girls. He made doll furniture for Mr.

Clark?s daughter. From this Isaac?s first and last romantic experience

developed. ?Indeed, as the two grew older, something of a romance apparently

developed between him and Miss Storer? (Westfall 13). From doll furniture

Newton moved on to other little machines. He used all the money his mother sent

him to buy tools and filled his room with the machines. He fell in love with Mr.

Clark?s library and would read as often as possible. At times he would spend

so much time on projects that he would fall behind in school. When he realized

he was falling behind all Isaac had to do was pick up his textbook and would

immediately be caught up. Through his machines Newton became proficient in

drawing and his inventions steadily became more elaborate. At the age of

seventeen in 1659, Newton left Mr. Clark and had another life changing

experience. When Newton was seventeen his mother took him out of school and

brought him back to the family farm. Trying to teach him how to run the farm and

manage the estate was a failure. Newton would always bribe a hired hand to do

the work he was supposed to. When he was supposed to be in town selling produce

he would go to his old room in Mr. Clark?s house and read or play with his

machines. In all of his spare time he returned to inventing and building

machines. Newton?s uncle and old schoolmaster saw that he was in the wrong

trade and urged his mother to prepare him to attend the University (Westfall

17). In 1660 he returned to Grantham to finish grammar school and prepare for

the university. In June of 1661 Newton entered Trinity College, Cambridge

(Internet-groups). While at Cambridge Newton studied mathematics (Internet-newtonia).

This is when Newton first started to delve into the many discoveries he would

soon be making. Throughout Isaac Newton?s childhood and early adulthood he

came in contact with many obstacles. Whether it was his mother leaving or his

inability to socialize with his peers, Newton overcame the hardships that faced

him. He was able to leave the family estate and trade behind in order to receive

a better education. His intelligence is what separated him from everyone else.

The ability he showed as a child was just the beginning. Newton made most of his

most important discoveries ? pure mathematics, theory of gravitation, and

optics ? before he even graduated college. Although he learned geometry

through school, he spoke of himself as self-taught. One of his earliest

mathematical discoveries was the binomial theorm. ?The binomial theorm gives a

formula, or rule, as Newton called it, for writing down the expansion of any

power of (1+x).? (Anthony 53) An example of this is as follows: (1+x)^n = 1 +

nx + n(n-1) x^2 + n(n-1)(n-2) x^3 + ? nx^(n-1) + x^n 1*2 1*2*3 This was an

early attempt at understanding differentiation. ?Newton made contributions to

all branches of mathematics then studied, but is especially famous for his

solutions to the contemporary problems in analytical geometry of drawing

tangents to curves (differentiation) and defining areas bounded by curves

(integration).? (Hall online) He discovered that they were inverse to each

other. At the same time, he figured a way out to solve these problems with his

method of fluxions and inverse method of fluxions. Fluxions are concerned with

the rate at which the change occurs. The rate of change of a quantity indicates

how the quantity is increasing or decreasing at a given time. The idea of

?rate of change? is so important in the realm of engineering, where

complicated changes in motion occur. The areas of surfaces, and volumes of

solids almost always require these methods for their evaluations, as do also

centers of gravity and moments of inertia. Even the modern study of aerodynamics

and the science of hydrodynamics would be impossible without the principles of

the calculus. One of the most valuable applications of the differential calculus

may be found in problems involving maxima and minima. ?Now it is known that

the value of the differential coefficient at any point on the curve varies with

the angle that the tangent at the point makes with the axis of x. In passing

through a maximum or a minimum, the inclination of the tangent becomes zero, so

that the pints of maxima and minima may be found by equating the differential

coefficient to zero.? (Anthony 73) By setting up these basic calculations,

Newton paved the way to understanding the theory of gravitation. As far as the

idea of universal gravitation is concerned, the essential work was done before

Newton was twenty-four. In eighteen months, Newton wrote what is considered the

greatest scientific work ever written. He called this book Philosophiae

Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), which is

usually known by the last two words. ?In the book Newton codified Galileo?s

findings into the three laws of motion.? (Wilson online) The first law of

motion was called ?the principle of inertia.? ?A body at rest remains at

rest and a body in motion remains in motion at a constant velocity as long as

outside forces are not involved.? (Wilson online) The second law of motion was

titled ?motion defined in terms of mass and acceleration.? This was the

first clear distinction between the mass of a body and its weight. He showed

that mass was just resistance to acceleration; in other words, mass is the

amount of inertia a body has. He also showed that weight was the amount of

gravitational force between a body and another body (the earth). The last of the

famous laws was ?action and reaction.? This law just states that for every

action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That low governs the behavior

of rockets. Using these three laws, Newton was able to figure out the way

gravitational force between the earth and the moon could be calculated. Because

you could use that calculation for any two bodies in the universe, the equation

became the law of universal gravitation. With this, he also calculated the

centripetal force needed to hold a stone in a sling, and the relation between

the length of a pendulum and the time of its swing. As you well know, Newton was

a very well rounded and intelligent man. Not only did he do work with math and

physics, but he also discovered the basics of optics. This is a picture taken

from Compton?s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1997 Edition. It shows Newton as he

was experimenting with prisms and discovering the properties of white light.

?He investigated the refraction of light by a glass prism; developing over a

few years a series of increasingly elaborate, refined, and exact experiments,

Newton discovered measurable, mathematical patterns in the phenomenon of colour.?

(Hall online) He found that white light was a mix of varied colored rays. During

his time, the telescope was just being invented and improved upon. Soon, the

inventers noticed a distortion in the distant objects they were viewing. When

they used a bigger lens, the light seemed to get blurry. This blurred effect is

known as chromatic aberration. The only reason the other intellects of the time

could not figure out what was causing the problem was because they believed that

white light from the sun was pure, when in all actuality, Newton proved wrong.

Another contribution was the reflective telescope; he knew that the refractive

telescope could only be so big, hence prohibiting extreme magnification. His

optical studies stopped because of the Great Plague that hit in 1666. That is

why he is mainly known for his mathematical discoveries and the laws of

gravitation. Newton once said, ?If I have seen further than most men, it is

because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants? (www.english.upenn.edu/~jlnch/Frank_Demo/People/newton.html).

Just as Newton built upon the existing knowledge of Descartes, Boyle, and

Galileo, we have built upon the knowledge, which he has bestowed upon us. It

seems as if there is a genius every one or two centuries whom steps beyond the

bounds of the time in which he lives in, and Newton was one of those men. The

only problem with him was, he could think of the processes, and inventions, yet

the world at that time did not possess the technology to build and use what he

had envisioned. ?Newton?s contributions to physical theories dominated

scientific thought for two centuries and remain important today? (Serway 86).

Sir Isaac Newton?s contributions of Calculus and his phenomenal three laws of

motion have allowed we as a people to achieve things that he himself could never

have imagined. Undoubtedly the first and greatest of Newton?s inventions was

his development of what we call, modern day calculus. ?Before the advent of

calculus, mathematics was concerned with static situations and could not deal

with the constant change which is ever present in the word around us?(The New

American Encyclopedia Vol. 3: 891). This ingenious mathematical method has

provided us with the ability to create things which the great philosophers of

the past could only dream of. This mathematical method allows us to make precise

calculations by using specified equations with only a few known quantities. Have

you ever tried to determine the volume of a solid after revolving a two

dimensional object around an axis on the Cartesian plane? Without calculus it is

not impossible, but it would be impractical to try and attack such a problem

without the proper tools. Without calculus, it would be like trying to eat soup

with a fork. ?With calculus, Newton?s first great achievement, he provided

himself with the mathematical tools necessary for the rest of his

work?(www.tiac.net/users/bruen/newton.html). Mathematics, science, and

technology go hand in hand. Without the proper mathematical methods, the

advancement in science and technology is extremely limited. ?Newton?s

contributions provided the leap from the possible to the actual?(www.tiac.net/users/bruen/newton.html).

With Newton?s new mathematical tools, he was able to develop and prove his

laws of motion and gravitation. ?In 1666 the contemplation of the fall of an

apple led Newton to his greatest discovery of all, that of the law of

gravitation and motion?(www.reformation.org/newton.html). Newton?s three

laws of motion: 1) Bodies continue in a state of rest or uniform motion unless

that condition is changed by applied force; 2) The rate of change of momentum is

proportional to the acting force, and is in the direction that the force acts;

3) Whenever force is applied to a body there is an equal and opposite reaction;

(The New American Encyclopedia Vol. 6: 1930) ?All physical laws are stated

mathematically as differential equations ?(The New American Encyclopedia Vol.

3: 892). ?As a consequence of his theories, Newton was able to explain the

motion of the planets, the ebb and flow of the tides, and man special features

of the motion of the Moon and the Earth?(Serway 86). And with these given laws

of motion, we can verify and predict the way any given object will react to its

environment. With these, we are able to accurately predict the path of

projectiles, and this provides us with a safety barrier so that we can be warned

prematurely of impending danger. So in essence, these laws have helped we as a

people to sustain life, as we know it, by giving us the means to detect and

respond to any problems that might arise. Perhaps the best way to see what Sir

Isaac Newton has given us is to look at what we as a people depend on most, the

computer. Without the process of analytical geometry, better known as calculus,

life wouldn?t be as easy as it is today. Meaning that the age of computers

would have never come about and without them, manual labor would be used instead

of automated labor, which would be a lot more costly, impractical, and

inefficient. Let?s face it, it is just this simple, computers run the world as

we know it! We rely on computers for everything, and without calculus, computers

might still exist, but the programs which run them would be nonexistent, simply

due to the fact that the majority of computers don?t run on the same input

from day to day. They run based on varying input. For the programs that run

computers to be effective and efficient, they must be able to handle multiple

inputs, and give reliable outputs when prompted. As it can clearly be seen, Sir

Isaac Newton?s numerous contributions in the areas of science and mathematics

have made it possible for we as a people to seemingly advance at an exponential

rate. As Newton accredited his accomplishments to his predecessors, so must we

attribute the success we have had today to the numerous accomplishments of

Newton in the areas of Science and Mathematics. If we as a people today have

achieved great things, it is because we have stood upon the shoulders of the

giant, Sir Isaac Newton.

Anthony, H. D. Sir Isaac Newton. New York: Abelard-Schuman Limited, 1960. 53,

73. Hall, Alfred Rupert. ?Isaac Newton.? Microsoft Encarta. 20 October 1999

. Hall, Rupert. Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1992. Moore, Patrick. Isaac

Newton. London: Adam & Charles Black Limited, 1957. Newton. 6 November 99

. Newton. February 1997

. Newton. 6 November 99

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. Newtonia. 1999

. Serway, Raymond. Principles of Physics. Orlando: Harcourt Brace College, 1998.

86. The New American Encyclopedia. 12vols. New York: Books Inc, 1971. 891, 892,

1930. Westfall, Richard S. The Life of Isaac Newton. New York. Cambridge

University Press. 1993. 1-18. Wilson, Fred L. ?Newton.? History of Science.

Rochester Institute of Technology. 20 October 1999

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