- 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.
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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.
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In his paper, Newton theorized that white light was a composite of all colors of the spectrum, and that light was composed of particles. Hooke believed that light was composed of waves. Hooke quickly condemned Newton's paper in condescending terms,
and attacked Newton's methodology and conclusions.
Hooke was not the only one to question Newton's work in optics. Renowned Danish scientist Christiaan Huygens and a number of French Jesuits also raised objections. But because of Hooke's association with the Royal Society and his own work in optics, his criticism stung Newton the worst. Unable to handle the critique, he went into a rage -- a reaction to criticism that was to continue throughout his life.
Newton denied Hooke's charge that his theories had any shortcomings, and argued the importance of his discoveries to all of science. In the ensuing months, exchange between the two men grew more acrimonious and soon Newton threatened to quit the Society altogether. He remained only when several other members assured him that the Fellows held him in high esteem.
However, the rivalry between Newton and Hooke would continue for several years thereafter. Then, in 1678, Newton suffered a complete nervous breakdown and the correspondence abruptly ended. The death of his mother the following year caused him to become even more isolated, and for six years he withdrew from intellectual exchange except when others initiated correspondence, which he always kept short.
During his hiatus from public life, Newton returned to his study of gravitation and its effects on the orbits of planets. Ironically, the impetus that put Newton on the right direction in this study came from Robert Hooke. In a 1679 letter of general correspondence to Royal Society members for contributions, Hooke wrote to Newton and brought up the question of planetary motion suggesting that a formula involving the inverse squares might explain the attraction between planets and the shape of their orbits.
Subsequent exchanges transpired before Newton quickly broke off the correspondence once again. But Hooke's idea was soon incorporated into Newton's work on planetary motion and from his notes it appears he had quickly drawn his own conclusions by 1680, though he kept his discoveries to himself.
In early 1684, in a conversation with fellow Royal Society members Christopher Wren and Edmond Halley, Hooke made is case on the proof for planetary motion. Both Wren and Halley thought he was on to something, but pointed out that a mathematical demonstration was needed. In August 1684, Halley traveled to Cambridge to visit with Newton, who was coming out of his seclusion. Halley idly asked him what shape the orbit of a planet would take if its attraction to the sun followed the inverse square of the distance between them (Hooke's theory).
Newton knew the answer due to his concentrated work for the past six years and replied "an ellipse." Newton claimed to have solved the problem some eighteen years ago during his hiatus from Cambridge and the plague, but he was unable to find his notes.
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