He was born on January 4, 1643 (December 25, 1642 according to the Gregorian calendar) in Woolsthorpe (Lincolnshire) in a farmer’s family.
He discovered the law of universal gravitation, initiated classical mechanics, recognized the complex structure of white light, discovered (regardless of GW Leibniz) the infinity calculus (differential and integral calculus). Newton’s childhood was not a happy one. His father died before his son was born. He was raised by his grandmother for several years. Mother remarried, but Newton hated his stepfather. For several years he studied at a school in the neighboring town of Grantham. In 1661–68 he studied at the University of Cambridge, in 1669 he became a professor of mathematics there (after his departure from the chair by I. Barrow, Newton’s teacher who first appreciated his genius). As a member of Trinity College, he never married. In 1696 he moved to London, where he became the curator of the mint, and in 1699 its director (his duties included, among others, the fight against counterfeiters,
The years 1665–1667
According to Newton’s memories, the beginning of his discoveries came in the adolescent years 1665–67, when he was in his family home due to the suspension of classes at the university in Cambridge during the plague epidemic. It was then that he discovered the differential and integral calculus (which he called the flux and calculus calculus), began to ponder the cause of celestial motion and conducted experiments in optics. He had his first successes in optics, constructing a mirror telescope ( Newton’s telescope ); thanks to this, 1672 became a member of the Royal Society in London.
Work on light
Newton’s first work published in February 1672, New Theory about Light and Colors, contained research on light dispersion and the discovery that white light is a mixture of different colors, each with a specific refractive index. In response to harsh criticism from Ch. Huygens and R. Hooke, Newton proposed the corpuscular (emission) theory of light, according to which light was to consist of light corpuscles emitted by glowing bodies and causing different length vibrations in the ether, corresponding to different colors. Newton collected all his experiences and views on the subject of light in the 1704 edition of Opticks[‘optics’]. There he discussed in detail the experiments on geometrical optics, reflection phenomena, refraction and dispersion of light as well as the properties of white light, light interference in thin layers, diffraction and polarization. This work ends 31 so-called questions containing Newton’s thoughts on various topics of astronomy, physics and chemistry. They amaze with depth and far-sighted view on nature. There are, among others, current assumptions about the hierarchy of elementary components of matter and their interactions.
Works on the movement of celestial bodies
Newton became interested in the issues of the celestial movement again around 1680 under the influence of correspondence with Hook, who in 1670 advanced the idea of universal gravity. It was only a qualitative idea, because, without proper mathematical preparation, Hooke was unable to make proper calculations for the motion of the Moon and planets. According to an analysis of preserved manuscripts, Newton understood the idea of universal gravitation only in December 1684 and for the next year and a half he developed his greatest work Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica [‘mathematical principles of the philosophy of nature’], which he published in 1687. He developed the science of space, time , masses and forces, introduced the concepts of absolute time and absolute space, gave three famous laws ( Newton’s principles of dynamics) and used them to solve many problems, such as: movement of bodies under the action of central forces and others, movement of orbit node lines, attraction of spherical and non-spherical bodies, issue of 3 bodies and movement of bodies in resisting centers. When considering the motion of the pendulum, he made a distinction between gravitational mass and inertial mass. Formulating the law of universal gravity, he showed that the orbits of planets and comets are conic curves (ellipse, parabola, hyperbola), justified 3 Kepler’s laws and explained deviations from these laws, explained the flattening of the Earth and planets, disturbed movement of the Moon, the phenomenon of ebb and flow, astronomical precession and many others. He also quantified the untruth of the Cartesian vortex theory.
In Philosophiae … he used Newton’s completely geometrical approach. So there are no Newton equations or any other equations of mechanics, hydrodynamics or aerodynamics. There are also no vectors or energy considerations (energy conservation principles were not yet known at that time). Newton’s work was very difficult to understand by his contemporaries and his views were accepted with resistance, especially outside of England. Even eminent scholars like Leibniz and Hyugens considered that the belief about the gravitational interaction of bodies at a distance is absurd.
However, Newton’s achievements were appreciated – in 1699 he became a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences in Paris, and 1703 – president of the Royal Society in London (he held this function until his death). He was the first scholar who was honored with nobility (1705). In the mid-eighteenth century, Newton was widely recognized as the greatest scholar, and JL Lagrange called him “the happiest of people, because there is only one world and only one man could determine the laws governing it.” The rise of quantum and relativistic physics in the 20th century marked the applicability of Newton’s mechanics, but it remained an extremely useful physical theory.
Newton’s mathematical discoveries were known to his contemporaries from his letters and manuscripts, and were published only after many years. First, the Opticks issued in 1704 were appended as additions: Tractatus de quadratura curvarum [‘treatise on squared curves’] and Enumeratio linearum tertii ordinis [‘calculation of third order curves’]. Then came Arithmetica universalis (1707), De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas [‘on analysis using infinite equations’] (1711), The Method of Fluxions and Infinite Series [‘the method of flux and infinite series’] ( 1736).
Newton emphasized the independence of science from philosophy. His methodology is best expressed by the famous statement of hypotheses non fingo [ utilities I don’t invent ‘], uttered in the so-called Scholium Generale [‘general explanation’], added at the end of the 2nd edition of Philosophiae … (1713). According to Newton, the hypothesis should be called everything that is not derived from phenomena, meanwhile in experimental science theorems are derived from phenomena and then generalized by induction, so it is enough that we can give a quantitative description of the phenomenon without asking about its cause. Despite this declaration, Newton did not shy away from hypotheses, e.g. considering the nature of light.
Newton also devoted a lot of time to alchemy and theological studies. He was deeply religious and defended religion and the Anglican Church. In his position of deism, he recognized the creation of the world as God’s work. He died on March 31, 1727 in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.