How true is the popular apple story that led to the law of gravitational force? The popular laws of motion, our favorite being the 3rd law which we use to explain away our hostile action of revenge. You also didn’t know that the Calculus you battle with in mathematics was designed by this great mind. Learn the answers and many more about the life and times of Sir Isaac Newton in this edition of RPPE. Happy reading.
Sir Isaac Newton was born prematurely on Christmas day in 1642. Newton was actually born on January 4th.
How so Mr. Writer….you just said Christmas day?
It’s confusing, right? At the time of Newton’s birth, the Gregorian/Julian calendar was still in use. It was until 1752; long after Newton was born that the England calendar was adopted. So going by the Gregorian calendar, Newton was born on Christmas day.
Newton’s father died only three months before his birth. When he was three, his mother remarried. Newton became separated from his mother and went to live with his grandmother. He harboured some enmity for his mother and his step father.
Following the death of his step father, his mother returned and they became reunited. At age 17, his mother withdrew him from school to become a farmer. Fortunately, Newton failed woefully in this field and due to pressure from his teacher in school, the would-be scientific genius back to school.
Newton was not without remarkable inventions, laws and theories. However, history has it that because of his modesty and many controversies he hesitated to share his discoveries.
Newton published his book Principia (nearly all its content is Calculus) on 5 July 1687. It was in this book he stated the three universal laws of motion. He also propounded the law of Universal gravitation in 1666. As tradition has it, this law owes to the popular ‘Apple story’. In his biography entitled Memoirs of Sir Issac Newton’s Life Newton told the apple story to his first biographer, William Stukeley who confirmed its validity.
However, Newton did not fully understand gravity. It was Robert Hooke who gave life to the law of universal gravitation. Also, Newton did many exploits in his research of optics but the major components were stimulated by Hooke’s work.
Arguments about optics and gravity between these two great men soured their relationship. Newton removed references to Hooke’s work from his book Principia. Shortly after Newton became the president of the Royal Society, all of Hooke’s contribution to science, Hooke’s instruments, a number of his papers and the only authentic portrait of Hooke vanished. Ironically, in a letter dated February 5, 1675, Newton wrote these famous words to Robert Hooke: ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants’
His Calculus were not short of similar controversies. Newton was in a major intellectual dispute with renowned Mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz. Historians believe that both scientists calculus independently. However, the Royal Society accused Leibniz of plagiarism. This study was cast into doubt when it was later found that Newton himself wrote the study’s concluding remarks on Leibniz.
His life was embittered by rage, intellectual dispute and controversies. Newton died in his sleep in London on 20 March 1727 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
We hope you have learnt something your teacher never told you in class. Tell us exactly what you’ve learnt. Can you state one law of motion? Do that in a comment below.