- NAME: Isaac Newton
- OCCUPATION: Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Physicist
- BIRTH DATE: January 04, 1643
- DEATH DATE: March 31, 1727
- EDUCATION: The King's School, University of Cambridge, Trinity College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: London, England, United Kingdom
- Full Name: Sir Isaac Newton
- AKA: Isaac Newton
Best Known For
English physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, most famous for his law of gravitation, was instrumental in the scientific revolution of the 17th century.
Sir Isaac Newton - Full Episode (44:21)
Watch a short biography of Isaac Newton, a key figure in the scientific revolution who is most famous for formulating laws of gravity.
Sir Isaac Newton's scientific genius defined the laws of gravity, but his personal life was lonely and unhappy.
A look at the later years of Sir Newton's life.
A look at how Isaac Newton's research influences the way we look at the world today.
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Born on January 4, 1643, in Woolsthorpe, England, Isaac Newton was an established physicist and mathematician, and is credited as one of the great minds of the 17th century Scientific Revolution. With discoveries in optics, motion and mathematics, Newton developed the principles of modern physics. In 1687, he published his most acclaimed work, Philosophiae, Natrualis, Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy),
"I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
"Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my greatest friend is truth."
which has been called the single-most influential book on physics. Newton died in London on March 31, 1727.
On January 4, 1643, Isaac Newton was born in the hamlet of Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England. He was the only son of a prosperous local farmer, also named Isaac Newton, who died three months before he was born. A premature baby born tiny and weak, Newton was not expected to survive. When he was 3 years old, his mother, Hannah Ayscough Newton, remarried a well-do-do minister, Barnabas Smith, and went to live with him, leaving young Newton with his maternal grandmother. The experience left an indelible imprint on Newton, later manifesting itself as an acute sense of insecurity. He anxiously obsessed over his published work, defending its merits with irrational behavior.
At age 12, Newton was reunited with his mother after her second husband died. She brought along her three small children from her second marriage. Newton had been enrolled at the King's School in Grantham, a town in Lincolnshire, where he lodged with a local apothecary and was introduced to the fascinating world of chemistry. His mother pulled him out of school, for her plan was to make him a farmer and have him tend the farm. Newton failed miserably for he found farming monotonous.
He soon was returned to King's School to finish his basic education. Perhaps sensing his innate intellectual abilities, his uncle, a graduate of the University of Cambridge's Trinity College, persuaded Newton's mother to have him enter the university. Newton enrolled in a program similar to a work study in 1661, and subsequently waited on tables and took care of wealthier students' rooms.
When Newton arrived at Cambridge, the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century was already in full force. The heliocentric view of the universe -- theorized by astronomers Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler, and later refined by Galileo -- was well known in most European academic circles. Philosopher René Descartes had begun to formulate a new conception of nature as an intricate, impersonal, and inert machine. Yet, as with most universities in Europe, Cambridge was steeped in Aristotelian philosophy and view of nature resting on a geocentric view of the universe and dealing with nature in qualitative rather than quantitative terms.
During his first three years at Cambridge, Newton was taught the standard curriculum, but was fascinated with the more advanced science. All his spare time was spent reading from the modern philosophers. The result was a less-than-stellar performance, but one that is understandable given his dual course of study.
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