- 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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Consciously or unconsciously, he was ready for a new direction in life. He no longer found contentment in his position at Cambridge and he was becoming more involved in other issues. He helped lead the resistance to King James II's attempts to reinstitute Catholic teaching at Cambridge and in 1689, he was elected to represent Cambridge in Parliament.
While in London,
Newton acquainted himself with a broader group of intellectuals and became acquainted with political philosopher John Locke. Though many of the scientists on the continent continued to teach the mechanical world according to Aristotle, a young generation of British scientists became captivated with Newton’s new view of the physical world and recognized him as their leader. One of these admirers was Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, a Swiss mathematician who Newton befriended while in London.
However, within a few years, Newton fell into another nervous breakdown in 1693. The cause is open to speculation: his disappointment over not being appointed to a higher position by England's new monarchs, William III and Mary II, or the subsequent loss of his friendship with Duillier; exhaustion from being overworked; or perhaps chronic mercury poisoning after decades of alchemical research. It's difficult to know the exact cause, but evidence suggests that letters written by Newton to several of his London acquaintances and friends, including Duillier, seemed deranged and paranoiac, and accused them of betrayal and conspiracy.
Oddly enough, Newton recovered quickly, wrote letters of apology to friends, and was back to work within a few months. He emerged with all his intellectual facilities intact, but seemed to have lost interest in scientific problems and now favored pursuing prophecy and scripture and the study of alchemy. While some might see this as work beneath the man who had revolutionized science, it might be more attributed to Newton responding to the issues of the time in turbulent 17th century Britain. Many intellectuals were grappling with the meaning of many different subjects, not least of which were religion, politics, and the very purpose of life. Modern science was still so new, no one knew for sure how it measured up against older philosophies.
In 1696, Newton was able to attain the governmental position he had long sought: warden of the Mint; after acquiring this new title, he permanently moved to London and lived with his niece, Catherine Barton. She was the mistress of Lord Halifax, a high-ranking government official who was instrumental in having Newton promoted, in 1699, to master of the Mint -- a position that he would hold until his death. Not to be considered a mere honorary position, Newton approached the job with earnest, reforming the currency and severely punishing counterfeiters. As Master of the Mint, Newton moved the British currency, the Pound Sterling, from the silver to the gold standard.
In 1703, Newton was elected president of the Royal Society upon Robert Hooke's death.
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