Sir Isaac Newton Essay, Research Paper
By: Kyle Von Rueden
Sir Isaac Newton was one of the most profound minds of his time. If you one
were to look up Sir Isaac Newton in a science encyclopedia, you would find the number
of his works outnumber all others by a great deal. (www.ihep.ac.cn/ins/ihep/kepu/
As I progressed through my research I found Newton to be more fascinating than
one could imagine. I found through my research that I can break his life up into three
main periods. The first is his childhood, and the second is his times of mostly
discovering and experimenting. Lastly, the third period is a time in which he sets aside
most of his deep thinking and begins working at a mint.
Sir Isaac Newton was born in Woolsthorp, England on Christmas day of 1642.
This was also the year Galileo died. It was almost like one great man taking the place of
another. When he was born, Newton was a tiny, weak infant. In Sir Isaac Newton (the
importance of), it mentioned that since Newton was so weak at birth instead of hurrying
to the neighbors house, the servants sat down on a stile to wait. They figured there was
no reason to make haste; the child would be dead by the time they got back(Deborah
Hitzeroth and Sharon Leon- qtd. in In the Presence of the Creator). Newton?s father
passed away three months prior his birth. This led his mother, Hannah Ayscough, to
leave Newton and find another husband. Newton was left at home to live with his
grandmother on the farm. Hannah did this mostly to ensure that the family held onto the
small estate they now lived on (Hitzeroth and Leon, 12). [picture A, Importance of Isaac
Newton, wwwcnl.cern.ch/~ncnab/n/w/index.html -- All pictures on last page(s)]
Newton didn?t understand why his mother did this, and it led him to do many
bad things as a young child (Hitzeroth and Leon 12). In a list of these sins, one he wrote
was, ?threatening my father and mother Smith to burn them and the house over them?
(Hitzeroth and Leon- qtd. in In the Presence of the Creator). Reverend Barnabas Smith
(second father), whom Isaac hated (es.rice.edu/es/humsoc/galileo/catalog/files/Newton),
died when Isaac was eleven. At that time Newton was still separated from his mother,
but after Barnabas?s death she returned home. She returned with Newton?s only brothers
and sisters (actually step-brothers and sisters),Benjamin Mary, and Hannah.
Soon after his mother?s return, Newton was sent off to grammar school seven
miles from Woolsthorp. Since this was to far for Isaac to walk each day, his mother sent
him to live with the Clarke family in Grantham. Hannah had been friends with Mrs.
Clarke in her teenage years. One could look at this as being an unfortunate thing for him
to be separated from his mother once again, but according to Hitzeroth and Leon the
great size of Grantham sparked Newton?s imagination and drove him to be more
While in school, Isaac Newton had a reputation as a day-dreamer (Hitzeroth and
Leon 15). His teachers complained he was idle and inattentive
(www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~ history/mathematicians/Newton). In the school Newton
attended, the students that were more intelligent sat in the front, and the less intelligent
sat in the back. Guess where Newton sat? He occupied the back. His teachers doubted
that Isaac would ever amount to anything
(www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/mathematicians/Newton). He did a wonderful
job of showing them up. Because of Newton?s appearance of not wanting to learn, his
mother removed him from school at fourteen and brought him home.
Before he was taken out of grammar school he had created many interesting and
useful gadgets. One of these toys was a model windmill. After school Isaac would stop
by a windmill that was going up in the town. He spent many hours watching it ,and he
thought he could build a wind mill just as good as the men(Hitzeroth and Leon, 15). He
soon built one and enjoyed showing it off to the children at school (Hitzeroth and Leon,
15). [picture B, Importance of Isaac Newton, 15] He also spent time making a water
clock. This contraption was four feet tall. It worked by dripping water from one cup to
another filled with a wooden float. When the float rose, the hand on the clock rotated.
Since there wasn?t the need for the minute hand back then (people hadn?t grown to
becoming as attached to the concept of exactness in time yet) , Newton?s invention
became very useful around the house. [picture C, Importance of Isaac Newton, 14]
Another thing he created were lanterns to fly on his kites. He would tie the small
lanterns to his kite, fly them in the darkness of night. Hitzeroth and Leon said this caused
the town folks to believe there where demons in the skies, but then they soon realized it
was just Isaac at his games again. One other thing he tinkered with was a sun dial.
After returning to Woolsthorp, Newton began to learn the trade of farming. This
wasn?t what he wanted to do and he spent many of the hours in which he should be
working, thinking (Hitzeroth and Leon, 18). For example, when he was to be watching
the sheep, he would go off and read, allowing the sheep to wander into the crops.
(Hitzeroth and Leon, 18). Newton?s uncle, seeing all of his disinterest in farming, had an
idea. He decided to send Newton off to Trinity College, where Newton?s uncle had
attended as a young man (www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/mathematicians/
Newton). At Trinity Newton first studied law. He was then rerouted by reading of
studies by Aristotle, in philosophy; Decartes, Gassendi, and Boyl, in algebra and
geometry; and Viete, Descartes, and Wallis, in astronomy
(www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/mathematicians/ Newton). In the end he
graduated with his bachelors in 1665 and his masters in 1668.
In 1665 Trinity College was forced to close down because of the Black Plague.
This break from schooling led Newton into some of his revolutionary advances in
mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy (which I will tell you more about as the
paper progresses) (www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/ mathematicians/Newton).
During his break from college Newton had become very close to Isaac Barrow
(www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/mathematicians/Newton). Isaac Barrow later
received the job of Lucasian Chair. This was a high position at Trinity which ended up
bringing Barrow more money and power. This then enabled Barrow to help fund
Newton?s research (www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/mathematicians/Newton ).
Besides receiving money from Barrow for research, Newton received money from the
estate at home, and from becoming a fellow at trinity (a fellow is the same as a member
or a teacher).
Newton spent the primary part of his time researching mathematics, mechanics,
and optics(es.rice.edu/es/humsoc/galileo/catalog/files/Newton ). He also spent some time
in physics, natural philosophy, and alchemy (es.rice.edu/es/humsoc/galileo/catalog/files/
Newton was the first to show that white light can be broken up into different
colored rays. Most think of these colors as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet; in
addition, Newton saw there to be a seventh color with in the spectrum, indigo, which fell
between blue and violet (Encyclopedia Americana 7-306). Physiologist Aubert found
there to be 1,000 different colors, and Ogden Rood found 2,000,000 different tints and
shades (Encyclopedia Americana 7-306).
When Newton studied light, he pushed himself so hard in his studies that he drove
himself to become ill (Hitzeroth and Leon, 31). At one point in his study, he grew to
wonder how his eye saw light. To answer this he experimented with his own eyes. He
would press his eyeball with different amounts of pressure. He would then note the
differences he saw. He would also stare at the sun then move into a dark room to see the
effect. To add to all of that, one time he used a mirror to stare at the sun. He was forced
to confine himself to a room for three days to heal his eyes (Hitzeroth and Leon, 32).
On the less harmful side, he also spent many hours in his bedroom playing with
prisms. One day he noticed that the shape refracted from the prism was oblong. He
thought it may have been an imperfection in the prism (Hitzeroth and Leon, 29). He
then began experimenting with other shapes and found the same thing occurred with
them. Newton concluded from this that when light goes through a prism it is refracted
into many colors, and each color bends differently (Hitzeroth and Leon, 30). He later
called this occurrence dispersion. According to the Encyclopedia Americana, dispersion
is an optical term applied to the angular separation experienced by the component rays of
a pencil of light on emerging from a refracting medium, whose surfaces are not parallel
to each other, as in the case of the common prism. That basically means dispersion is
when light bends while going through a prism.
Hitzeroth and Leon claimed that Newton?s research in light was started by
Galileo?s past research. They said that he wanted to improve on Galileo?s ?weak ?
telescope. (this telescope could still see mountains on the moon though.) From Newton?s
discoveries with prisms he realized that instead of using a refracting telescope, a
reflecting telescope would create a much clearer picture because he had learned from
past experiments that refracting would distort the picture (Hitzeroth and Leon, 37) This
instrument led to Newton?s entrance into the Royal Society of England a bit later in his
life (the Royal Society was basically a group of intelligent men that worked together to
discuss and approve scientific and mathematical findings) (Hitzeroth and Leon, 39).
[picture D, Importance of Isaac Newton, 38]
Besides the telescope he also invented the sextant. The sextant is a device used to
measure the angular distance between two points. It looks like a metal protractor with
some odds and ends sticking out of it. Another invention by Newton was a burning glass
composite. This was a curved (convex) lens which focused the suns rays to easily start
something on fire.
Another small thing that can be credited to Newton is the first thought of an
automobile (Encyclopedia Americana, 1-655). What he created was a small toy with a
steam boiler to propel a jet on the back of the car.
You have probably heard about Newton?s incident with the apple tree. Here are a
few versions of that story. The first was written by one of Newton?s contemporaries,
?In the year 1661 he [Newton] retired again from Cambridge… to his mother in Lincolnshire and whilst
he was musing in a garden it came into his thought that the power of gravity (which brought
an apple from the tree to the ground) was not limited to a certain distance from earth but
that this power must extend much farther than was usually thought. Why not as high as the moon
said he to himself and if so that must influence her motion and perhaps retain her in her orbit.?
The second was written by William Stukeley in 1726.
?The weather being warm, we [Newton and William] went into the garden and drank tea, under shade of some
apple-trees, only he and myself. Amidst other discourses, he told me, he was just in the same
situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasion?d by
the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descended
perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself. Why should it not go sideways or
upwards, but constantly to the earth?s center.?
Besides the falling apple the one thing that really pushed Isaac to research gravity
was Robert Hooke (Hitzeroth and Leon, 50) Hooke was a physicist that was also the
president of the Royal Society at that time. Newton truly despised Hooke and wanted to
show the cocky Hooke that he also could solve the mystery of gravity (Hitzeroth and
Of all of Newton?s findings I think the three laws of motions are probably the
most well know, the first is as follows, taken from the Encyclopedia Americana
I.?Every body persists in its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line,
except in so far as it is compelled by impressed forces to change that state.?
This means that an object will stay in one place or continue moving in a straight line until
something moves or changes its direction.
II.?Change of motion is proportional to the moving force applied, and takes place in
the direction of the straight line in which the force acts.?
This means that the force an object gains when hit by another is proportional to the
amount lost by the other, and the object hit will continue in the direction of the object it
was hit by.
III.?To every action there is always an equal and contrary reaction; or, the mutual
actions of any two bodies are always equal and oppositely directed.
These means if something pushes on something, it also pushes back with equal force.
This law explains why your chair doesn?t sink into the floor. For example; when your
chair pushes into the ground, it is equally pushed back by the floor?s force.
Sir Isaac Newton was the true founder of calculus (www-groups.dcs.
st-and.ac.uk/~ history/mathematicians/Newton). He had great trouble in making society
believe that. A man by the name of Leibniz was his problem. When Newton had come
to conclude his discoveries, he wrote them in a letter to send to a good friend. Somehow
Leibniz received this letter and began taking credit for what Newton had discovered.
Since Leibniz was the president of the Royal Society at that time, Leibniz had no trouble
making society give him the credit (www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/
Newton had an experiment called Two Falling Globes. This experiment is show
in the following picture. [picture E, wwwcnl.cern.ch/~ncnab/n/w/index.html] In this
experiment Newton attempted to show that an object falls at the same rate no matter
where its beginning position is. In the picture, when the object a has fallen from e to f,
let the object b begin to move at g so that both globes land together at h. This
experiment was successful for Newton (wwwcnl.cern. ch/~ncnab/n/w/index.html). Some
saw Newton?s experiment wrong and incorrect, and tried to explain it as follows: there is
a string attached to b from f to g so b get a head start (wwwcnl.cern.
Along with his laws of motion and gravity he also studied inertia. Inertia is the
mechanical continuance, or persistence, of energy in existence. Using what he had
learned about inertia Newton discovered that all substances have the same
heaviness/weight, if each object posses inertia to an equal degree (Encyclopedia
Americana, 15-112). From this he also continued to prove that two objects, no matter
what their mass, will fall at the same rate (Encyclopedia Americana, 15-112). For
example, if you dropped a ten ton weight and a feather from the same height, they would
land at the same time. One knows (thinks) that isn?t really true, but they would land at
the same time if not for friction or the airs resistance. From this his theory is proved true.
Within calculus one of Newton?s discoveries was a theory of fluxions. Fluxions
can be best described as flowing points (Encyclopedia Americana, 11- 406). In a letter
to Oldenburg, Newton wrote: ? Given it makes no matter how many equations involving
fluent quantities, fluxions are to be discovered, and the reverse.? (Encyclopedia
Americana, 11-406) Newton was saying that any one equation can fluctuate into another.
For example, a point can flux into a line, than to a shape (a square), then that into a cube.
(Encyclopedia Americana, 11-406) A rotating point could flux into a circle, then into a
sphere (Encyclopedia Americana, 11-406). [picture F, Importance of Isaac Newton, 38]
Along with Newton?s math talents he also furthered the study of algebra. One of
his most profound accomplishments was that of the binomial or Newtonian Theorem. ( a
binomial is a quantity consisting of two terms connected by a plus (+) or minus (-) sign.
This theorem is used to find a binomial to any power desired.
a/b= terms in binomial…….n= power that the binomial will be taken too
= sigma, a sign used to show there is an infinite answer possibility
R= is the number in the infinite series of sigma used
!= factorial, i.e. 4!= 4*3*2*1 (* = multiplication sign)
Newton used all of his knowledge to produce several books. One was the
Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms. To create this book, Newton used his knowledge in
astronomy to find dates of Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, and mythology events.
Another of his books was the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy,
better know as the Principia. [picture G, Importance of Isaac Newton, 54] This book
talks about physics, the laws of motion, laws of gravity, and tides. Benard Cohen said,
?It is one of the most profound revolutions in the history of human thought.? (Hitzeroth
and Leon, 54) The Principia was written for the Royal Society (Hitzeroth and Leon, 53)
When the Royal Society received the book, the president and past enemy Hooke found
the book disturbing. It disturbed him because it had no mention of his findings.
(Hitzeroth and Leon, 53) Newton then wrote to a friend that Hooke didn?t deserve any
mention: all of the work was completely Newton?s (Hitzeroth and Leon, 53).
After writing the Principia Newton received great grief from the community
(Hitzeroth and Leon, 54). Hardly anyone could understand his writings. Newton
couldn?t understand why people couldn?t understand them. He commented, ?The
principles of my theory are within the intellectual grasp even of those who are
unacquainted with the higher mathematics.? (Hitzeroth and Leon, 55). This
misunderstanding from the community was just the beginning of his nervous breakdown.
Other factors were the death of his mother, then four other close friends passing away
within a close time period (Hitzeroth and Leon, 58) Another idea on how his nervous
breakdown occurred was a fire he accidentally started. This fire burned a great number
of some very important research papers (Hitzeroth and Leon, 63). His breakdown led
him away from his studies and into a less strenuous line of work. He began to work at a
mint as the warden.
When coins where made in Newton?s age, the coin was made of the actual
valuable metal. Because of this, people would shave edges off the coins and then pass
them on. This eventually caused horrible arguments between buyers and sellers.
Newton?s job was to watch over the workers at the mint and others in the city and
attempt to catch the people doing this illegal act. [picture H, Importance of Isaac
Later he was promoted to the position of master of the mint. This occurred
during King William?s Recoinage. The Recoinage was the attempt to collect all coins,
melt them down, and create new coins to end the confusion. Newton was in charge of
this task. It was vital to England?s economy to get this done quickly (Hitzeroth and Leon,
65). If Newton hadn?t finished the job quickly it could have greatly slowed the country?s
economy down. (Hitzeroth and Leon, 65) Newton accomplished this by making ten more
coin machines and hiring more workers.
While out of his discovery age, Newton became actively involved in the Royal
Society. He became a member in 1672, then was president in 1703. This was made
possible by the death of his long time rival, Hooke (Hitzeroth and Leon).
Although he was mostly done with research, he received a challenge one day from
Johann Bernoulli. The challenge was to find the path, other than a vertical line, in which
a body would fall the fastest. Newton set to this right away and accomplished it
overnight (Hitzeroth and Leon, 68). The solution was a curve called a cycloid. [picture I,
In Newton?s older years he found himself gambling with stocks. His main bid
was a stock called South Sea. He didn?t do very well with his stocks but his other
financial areas of his life made up for it. A man estimated his total earning to be 39,033
pounds (wwwcnl.cem. ch/~mcnab/n/ntm/ntmtxt2.html). With the bad gambling, his
niece said that he had lost over 20,000 pounds, but he didn?t want anyone to know
(wwwcnl.cem.ch/~mcnab/n/ntm/ntmtxt2.html) Dr. Wollaston best sums his problem
with this comment,? In his old age he became a greedy old fool.?
(wwwcnl.cem.ch/~mcnab /n/ntm/ntmtxt2.html). This just goes to show that even the
greatest of minds can be captured by the simplest things.
Even though Newton appeared to have lived a humble life, he still had some great
moments (Hitzeroth and Leon, 72) One you already know, becoming Royal Society
president. Another was being knighted by Queen Anne. The last that was found was
Newton?s visit by Peter the Great on his tour through the West. Though little was know
about their meeting, Peter had turned out to be very pleased with what he learned from
Newton (Hitzeroth and Leon, 71)
In closing the report here is a quote by Alexander Pope that beautifully fits
Newton. ?God said, Let Newton be! and all was light? (www.ihep.