About Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton was born in 1643 in Woolsthorpe, England. At an early age, Newton was expected to take care of his mother’s farm. However, Isaac wanted to spend his time learning and had no interest in farming. He went back to school instead, and later to Cambridge University. This turned out to be the right thing to do, because Isaac went on to develop world-changing ideas in math and physics.
Light and Color
Have you ever held a prism up to a window and seen the rainbow it shines on the wall? This was one of Isaac Newton’s first discoveries. It’s called refraction, and Newton used it to study how light is made up of pieces of energy called particles. He used two prisms to show that light could be made into a rainbow by the first prism, and then made back into white light by a second prism. His discovery changed how people thought of color. Newton used these lessons to design and invent the first reflecting telescope. His book Opticks, published in 1704, created the modern study of light that we call optics.
A Body in Motion
Newton was responsible for three laws of physics that came to be known as Newton’s Laws. These laws say that every body, or object, in motion will stay in motion unless another force acts against it to change its course. These laws played a huge role in Newton’s studies of gravity.
Apples and Gravity
According to legend, while visiting his family farm in 1666, Newton saw an apple fall from a tree. He started thinking about how gravity pulls objects toward Earth, and understood that the moon orbits the Earth in the same way. Another scientist had already written that the planets orbit the sun, but Newton was the first to write about universal gravitation, which is how gravity makes the planets stay in their order around the sun. Later, Albert Einstein developed the Theory of Relativity, which explains in more depth the relationship between mass and gravity.
Facts about Isaac Newton
- Newton was raised by his grandparents. His father died before he was born, and his mother remarried and moved away when he was three.
- Queen Anne knighted Newton in 1705, making him Sir Isaac Newton.
- A monument to Newton is located in Westminster Abbey, where many other famous scientists are buried, including Charles Darwin.
- For the last 30 years until his death in 1727, Newton served as Master of the Mint, a job which gave him the power to set the price of money.
Newton never married nor had children. He was so hurt by criticism of his work that he would end friendships with or avoid people who disagreed with him. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1693, but recovered and went on to join the Parliament of England. Having respect for other scientists and thinkers was very important to Newton. He once said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”