Term Paper: Sir Isaac Newton

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Issac Newton

Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton is one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists of all times; usually presented by the historical documents of science as the academician who discovered the Law of Gravity, Newton also had great achievements in domains such as optics, mathematics, mechanics, alchemy, chemistry and even religion or philosophy. He was born in 1642 at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, where he started his education. In 1661 he became a student of the Cambridge University and in 1667 a Fellow of the Trinity College, when he discovered his passion for mathematics. He later on became a professor of the university, this period of his life being mainly dedicated to studying mathematics, physics and alchemy. Moreover, he made his first public scientific achievement, the invention, design and construction of a reflecting telescope and he also wrote "Principia," a study of mathematical principles applied on natural philosophy, which was only published in 1687.

Newton moved to London in 1696 when he became a member of the Royal Mint, after he had been elected Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge to the Convention Parliament of 1689, and sat again in 1701-1702. He was named Master of the Mint ten years later, in 1699, and in 1703 he was elected as the President of the Royal Society of London, a function he detained until his death.

As it may be inferred from above, Isaac Newton's contribution to science, philosophy and even religion was huge; however, his first passion is considered to be mathematics, which occurred during his undergraduate period at Cambridge. The student statute allowed him to study several contemporary works, such as "Geometrie" by Descartes, or "Arithmetica infinitorum" by John Wallis. However, his most important achievements in analytic geometry, algebra, and calculus have been made from 1664 to 1696, when the binomial theorem, new methods for expansion of infinite series, and the method of fluxions have been discovered. Moreover, these theories were later on reproduced in the studies "De analysi" - "On Analysis" -,which was published only in 1711, "Methodus fluxionum et serierum infinitorum" - "The Method of Fluxions and Infinite Series" -, 1736 and, perhaps the most illustrative, in "Opticks," published in 1704.

The latter work also comprised some elements of Newton's achievements in optics, an approach he developed more in his study "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society," which mainly emphasized his initial research while he was studying at Cambridge.

However, one of his greatest discoveries, also known as "the crucial experiment" - which showed that a selected color leaving the first prism, could not be separated by the second prism - was explained in "Optiks," a study which best emphasizes his work on light and color. "In Newton's words, the purpose of the "Opticks" was 'not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments.' "The Opticks" moves from definitions, axioms, propositions, and theorems to proof by experiment. A subtle blend of mathematical reasoning and careful observation, the "Opticks" became the model for experimental physics in the 18th century."

However, this book was more than an experiment: it practically revolutionized the science at that time, as until Newton's discovery it was believed that light, just as sound, consisted of a wave motion. He changed this perspective, sustaining that light was made of discrete particles which in straight lines in the form of inertial bodies.

Moreover, another phenomenon, also named "Newton's rings" is described in the "Optiks," together with the scientist's first attempts to explain the Law of Periodicity. Thus, he explained that the light which passed through a convex lens pressed against a flat glass plate may produce concentric colored rings - Newton's rings - and, in the same time, alternating dark rings. The book also attempts to raise some questions regarding the forces of nature and even the mystery of gravitation, but it mainly addresses to issues regarding the nature of light.

However, the book that best explains the Law of Gravitation and its effect on the universe is "The Principia," also considered being Newton's masterpiece. The study is divided into three parts, as it explains three laws, known as "Newton's laws." Isaac published "Principia" in 1687 while he was teaching at Trinity College, Cambridge. Thus, the period he had spent here was not only dedicated to mathematics and optics, but also to astronomy and physics. What may be inferred from this is that the scientist's interests in different domains were not divided according to certain periods of his life, but they have all been manifested throughout his life.

In the "Principia," Isaac Newton started his attempt by describing the three basic laws that were meant to elucidate the mystery of the way the objects move. Thus, Book I of the Principia explains eight definitions and three axioms, which were later on named Newton's laws: "Every body continues in its state of rest, or uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it (inertia). The change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and is made in the direction of the straight line in which that force is impressed (F = ma). To every action there is always an opposed and equal reaction."

Having the above-mentioned axioms as a basis, Newton then attempted to define gravity, simply naming it "the force that causes things to fall down," and he best illustrated it through the famous apple experiment, which leaded him to believe that the moon is kept around the earth with the help of the gravity force of the earth and, even more, that all planets revolve around the suns in orbits that are oval, not round, as it had been previously believed.

The second part of the Principia, deals with the Motion of bodies through resisting mediums and also with the motion of fluids; this part was not initially planned to be a part of the study, as its subject was not among Newton's main interests. However, it still remains important in the public eye, since it demonstrates that neither the theory of Descartes that explains planetary motion, nor Kepler's statement regarding the three planetary rules were valid.

On the other hand, In Book III, also named "System of the World," is totally dedicated to the power of gravity, sustaining that the gravity is proportional with the quantity of matter existing in each body. The law was outlined as follows: F = G Mm/R2; F. represents the force that attracts the matter that is proportional with the product of their masses, Mm and inversely proportional to the square of distance, R2, between them, whileas G. is the symbol for the constant whose value varies depending on the units used for mass and distance.

The "Principia" represents, above all, the study that has brought Newton the international appreciation, one of the personalities he caught the attention of being the Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, who later on became one of the physician's close friends. Moreover, his passion for mechanics was reflected on his considerations on the universe, believing that the universe worked as a machine and, therefore, it could only be governed by a few simple laws. It has many times been stated that Newton's passion for discovering the mysteries of the universe derived directly from the fact that he was born a short time after the death of Galileo, one of the greatest scientists of all times. He had demonstrated that the planets revolve around the sun, not the earth, as it was considered at the time. Isaac Newton had an enormous passion for this man and for others who had succeeded to revolutionize the ancient beliefs at the time.

However, science was not the only domain Newton has dealt with: he has also some important studies of theology and history. Born in a Protestant family, he has many times been accused of unorthodoxy; practically, Newton was somehow against the spiritual directions of the times, which emphasized that God was the essence of all things in the world and everything, from land to people, belonged to Him and existed from his will. Newton's appreciations on theological issues derived from a vivid passion for the object of people's faith and for the Bible, which he has studied intensively, sustaining in the end that it was indeed God's word, but was written by inspired men. Newton also wrote on Judaeo-Christian prophecy, which main beliefs he tried to prove false - sustaining that Christianity was born in the 4th century AD, with the first Council of Nicaea -, just as he did with the convictions of Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens regarding the spread of light.

Therefore, what truly may be said about Isaac Newton is that he revolutionized the world in all perspectives: from his first invention, which amazed the public so much that he was received in the Royal Society, to the discovery regarding the spread of light, composed of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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