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Sir Isaac Newton And Western Civilization English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1402 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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There were many important advancements made during the scientific revolution, but none more important than the work of Isaac Newton. Newton led a somewhat troubled childhood to become possibly the greatest influence on mathematics and science in the history of mankind. Primarily, he was a physicist, but he was also a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and alchemist. Aside from all of his theories and discoveries he completely revolutionized the approach to science and was a key catalyst to the scientific revolution.

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Isaac Newton was born prematurely on January 4, 1643 in Woolsthorpe Lincolnshire England. This was before England adopted the Gregorian calendar so his birthday according to the modern calendar is December 25, 1642. His birth came three months after the death of his father, an illiterate yet successful and prosperous farmer who was also named Isaac Newton. At the age of three, his mother remarried and left him in the care of his grandmother. He held a great deal of hatred for his stepfather and was also angry at his mother for marrying him and leaving. He hated them so much that a list of sins he wrote in 1662 contained “Threatening my father and mother Smith to burn them and the house over them.” In 1653, his mother’s second husband died and she returned to Woolsthorpe. In 1654, at the age of twelve he is enrolled in King’s School in Grantham. During his time here he lives with the town apothecary, where he first begins to become interested in chemistry. Initially he was regarded as a poor student, but gradually rose to the top of the class. In 1958, his mother removes him from school to train him to run the family estate as a farmer. He quickly (and possibly on purpose) proves himself to be neglectful and unfit to be a farmer, and returns to school to continue preparing for Cambridge. In June of 1661, he enters Trinity College in Cambridge. At the time, the teachings at the college were based on those of Aristotle. However, Newton was more interested in the more modern ways of thinking of Descartes, Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. His initial goal at Cambridge was a law degree. Once there, he is taken under the wing of Isaac Barrow, who holds the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, and begins private study in mathematics and optics along with the official university curriculum. He earned his bachelors degree in 1665 and would have gone on to earn his masters if not for an outbreak of he plague which forced the school to close its doors. He returns to Woolsthorpe in the summer of 1665, where, despite being self taught, Newton is very productive and makes many breakthroughs in the fields of mathematics and optics. During this period he develops the fundamentals of calculus. He sets down the basic rules for differentiation and integration in a paper in1666. He also did many experiments with sunlight and prisms and discovered that light was made up of a spectrum of colors. At one point he nearly blinds himself while conducting optical experiments on his own eyes. These discoveries led to his future work with reflecting telescopes. This is also the time when Newton sees the famous falling apple which leads him to study the force of gravity and planetary motion. However, Newton’s theory on universal gravitation will not be released for another twenty years. In April of 1667 he returns to Cambridge where he is elected a minor fellow of Trinity College, which requires him to accept the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. In 1668 he earns his masters degree and became a senior fellow. The following year, he succeeded Isaac Barrow as the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics. In 1972 Newton was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and his “Theory about Light and Colors” was published in their journal. His theories receive many critical reactions, especially from the society’s curator of experiments, Robert Hooke. Due to his arguments with Hooke, he claims he will no longer be involved in any more scientific discussions or publications. His disagreements with Hooke continue up until Hooke’s death in 1703. He remains removed from the scientific community despite efforts to convince him reengage in scientific discussions. During this time he secretly concentrates his studies on alchemy and also on biblical history. He suffers a serious emotional breakdown in 1678 and returns to Woolsthorpe in1679 to care for his sick mother who dies in June of that year. He remains in Woolsthorpe for the remainder of the year to settle family affairs. Over the next several years he works with Edmund Halley as he continues his studies on comets and planets and fully formulates his theory of universal gravitation in 1686. In the following year Newton’s greatest work, the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, commonly referred to as the Principia was published, financed by Halley. The Principia is quite possibly the most important scientific document ever published. The Principia is made up of three editions, of which the second and third editions are published in 1713 and 1726 respectively. The publishing of the Principia leads to more tension between Newton and Hooke, who claims letters he wrote in 1679 and 1680 should earn him some recognition for Newton’s discoveries. Instead of acknowledging Hooke’s work, Newton deletes every mention of Hooke from his work. After the Principia is published, Newton once again becomes involved in public affairs. He is elected to represent Cambridge in parliament in 1689, however it is said that the only comments he ever made while in parliament were “shut the window” in response to a cold draft. During his time in London he becomes friends with mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier and philosopher John Locke. In 1693, his friendship with Duillier abruptly ends for unknown reasons; Newton also suffers a second nervous breakdown that year. In 1696 he moved to London to take the post of warden of the Royal Mint. In 1700, at his request, he becomes the Master of the Mint, a less prestigious but more powerful and better paid position. After Hooke’s death in 1703, Newton is elected president of the royal society in 1704 and reelected each year thereafter until his death in 1727. In 1704, Newton publishes his second major work Opticks, which lists the principles and properties of light, and was knighted in 1705. During his time as president of the royal society, he uses it to his own personal advantage. In 1712, at the request of Gottfried Leibniz, Newton appoints a committee to look into the ongoing dispute about the creation of calculus. The final report, compiled by Newton, unsurprisingly supports Newton’s claims and implies plagiarism on Leibniz’s part. In another abuse of his power, he publishes the astronomical observations of John Flamsteed, without the author’s permission. In both of these disputes, Newton uses younger scientists to fight his battles for him, while secretly calling the shots behind the scenes. Due to his disagreements with Leibniz and Flamsteed, the second edition of the Principia, published in 1713 gives fewer acknowledgements to Leibniz, and completely removes Flamsteed from any mention. In 1722, Newton begins to suffer from bladder stones and is forced to delegate many of his responsibilities to others. He oversees his last meeting of the royal society on March 2, 1727, after which he is bedridden while suffering from another bladder stone. Newton dies in his bed on March 31, 1727 after refusing his last rites and becomes the first scientist to be buried in Westminster Abbey. After his death, Newton’s body was found to contain high amounts of mercury, a possible explanation for his eccentric behavior in the later stages of his life. The presence of mercury is believed to be due to various alchemical experiments performed by Newton.

Sir Isaac Newton was an extremely eccentric man who was one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential mathematicians and scientists in mankind’s history. It is easy to look at a list of everything he accomplished and say he did this, and he discovered that. But it is more important to realize how everything he did helped to revolutionize the entire approach to math and science.


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