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Isaac Newton was a British scientist whose book, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, details laws of motion and theory of gravity which underpins much of modern physics. He also contributed to the field of mathematics through his work on calculus.

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Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was a British scientist born on January 4, 1643 in Woolsthorpe Manor, UK. He, arguably, made the largest contribution to physics than any other human in the history of humankind. The unit of force, the newton (N), is named after him.

Newton made advances in just about every branch of mathematics studied at the time. His most influential mathematical invention is calculus, the study of change, although the invention is also claimed by Gottfried Liebniz. Many historians now suggest both men invented calculus independently, just with different notation.

In 1666, Newton studied optics, specifically looking at the different colors of light that exited a prism due to refraction. He concluded that the colors must be a part of white light. Before this discovery, people thought that the prism colored the light.

Newton is most famous for his theory of gravity which many people associate with the falling of an apple on his head. This story is not likely to be true, Newton didn’t create his theory of gravity in a single moment. An acquaintance of his did write in his biography of Isaac Newton that when he was with Isaac in a garden and Newton was thinking about gravity, it was “occasion'd by the fall of an apple”. Some historians believe this is how the falling apple story started.

Isaac Newton released Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687, in which he laid out his laws of motion forming a basis for classical mechanics and his laws of gravitation. The book took him two years to produce and his ideas and theories now underpin much of modern science and engineering.

On March 20, 1727, Newton died at age 84. He was given a state funeral and buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

Newton's Significant Accomplishments

  • Three Laws of Motion
  • Laws of Gravitation
  • Inventing calculus

Isaac Newton Quotes

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

“Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my best friend is truth.”

”I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.”

Learn more about people who have influenced history in our Picture Encyclopedia!
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