Who was Isaac Newton and what is his scientific legacy?

Mathematician, physicist, scientist, philosopher, theologian and alchemist were some of the jobs carried out by him who is one of the greatest minds in history. Of course, we are referring to Sir Isaac Newton, the man who discovered gravity or rather the physical and mathematical precepts behind it.

Join us as we review the life of this prominent science figure who forever changed the way we understand the universe and its laws.

The life of Isaac Newton

The life of this scientist has been summarized by his official biographers in three well-differentiated blocks, which allows us to reveal who Isaac Newton was . These are identified as his childhood, his life in Cambridge, and ultimately as an English government official until his death.

Newton's Childhood

December 25, 1642 is the date Isaac Newton was born. The son of a married couple of small wealthy landowners in Woolsthorpe, a modest village located in the county of Lincolnshire.

It can be said that his childhood was difficult since his father, Isaac Newton Sr., passed away before being able to see the birth of his son. At the age of 3, his mother, Hannah Ayscough, remarried and left young Isaac in the care of his grandmother. However, Isaac cultivated at that time a deep rejection of his stepfather and his mother.

His first training from him at the age of 12 was received at the King's School in the neighboring town of Grantham, where he went on to be a formidable and highly competitive student. When he reached the age of 17 in 1659, his mother, who had been widowed again, wanted Isaac to go into business on the farm and withdrew him from school.

His maternal uncle, as well as a professor from Newton, convinced his mother to send him back to study to form his later university career.

His passage through Cambridge

Thus, in 1661, Newton entered Trinity College, Cambridge where he received knowledge of Aristotelian philosophy. But this training was complemented by more modern studies including the works of Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Tomas Street and Johanes Kepler.

The Black Death forced Cambridge to close in 1665 but, in August, it reopened, allowing time for Newton to complete his bachelor's degree. However, the plague reappeared causing a new closure until 1666.

In Newton's own words the years 1665 and 1666 were the most prolific times. This period was marked by the reflection and development of a set of ideas that served as foundations for his Newtonian theory. At this point, it is where what Isaac Newton discovered in terms of calculus, the law of universal gravitation and the principles of optics is defined. Years later, the same scientist revealed that the famous observation of the falling apple that inspired Newton to discover the laws that govern gravity.

When he returned to Cambridge in 1667 he became a fellow at Trinity College and then, with the consent of the Lucasian professor Isaac Barrow, Newton became his successor in 1669. From this point on he began a vertiginous advance in mathematics and physics.

What did Newton discover?

Calculation

During his time at Cambridge, specifically in 1669, Newton published his first work on fluxions, better known as calculus. Here he came up with the formula for calculating the power of a binomial regardless of its exponent.

Added to this was his interest in infinitesimal calculus, which put an end to the paradigmatic dominance of Greek foundations in mathematics. However, and only due to pressure from Isaac Barrow, this work was made known, but 12 years later.

Thus this manuscript became what we know as integral and differential calculus It should be noted that Newton and Leibniz engaged in a bitter dispute over the authorship of calculus. But it turns out that both geniuses reached similar conclusions by different methods.

Optics

Being a member of the Roya Society in 1672, Newton presented his research that he had been preparing for 2 years on optics. He had recently invented a powerful reflector telescope and Newton discovered that white light was actually made up of other colored light beams. With Newton's theory of colors it was possible to correct chromatic aberrations with corrective lenses used in observing devices such as refracting telescopes.

Furthermore, Newton rightly concluded that light was made up of “corpuscles”, what today are known as photons. But this theory received enormous criticism from a scientific sector led by Robert Hooke, for which his final obrenoptic works came to light after Hooke's death in 1703.

Newton's laws in mechanics and universal gravitation

By 1679 Newton felt that he owed a debt to the work done in earlier years on the mechanics of the heavenly bodies. This interest was increased by the comet that crossed the northern sky between 1680 and 1681. Isaac Barrow and the famous astronomer Edmund Halley encouraged Newton on his theories on the laws of gravitational attraction.

This work evolved, perfected and corrected itself until in 1679 it was able to unquestioningly verify Newton's law of universal gravitation, but it was published in 1685. This was entirely compatible with Kepler's ideas and explained , with the elliptical shape of the orbits, questions about the retrograde orbit of Mars.

Later this work expanded, publishing in 1687, the Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica. In this book, Newton's 3 laws which are the foundation of Newtonian or vector mechanics are stated. Seen in more detail, these laws are:

  • Law of inertia.
  • Fundamental principle of dynamics
  • Principle of action and reaction

These newton's laws are perfect to give an answer to the kinematic, dynamic and static phenomena of objects within a Euclidean geometric space.

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