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Sir Isaac Newton PROBABLY THE MOST Influential Scientist English Literature Essay

Sir Isaac Newton, the most influential scientist of the world was a respected polymath. He was a Physicist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Natural philosopher, Alchemist and a Theologian. Today's modern and technically advanced era of scientific supremacy could not be possible without his scientific and mechanical contributions. His discoveries in a variety of fields are a priceless present to mankind. Sir Isaac Newton was a fantastic genius, who advanced every branch of Mathematics and Physics. His discoveries and works laid the building blocks of modern classical mechanics which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. He certainly is the key person of modern scientific revolution. But, as a person, he had shown an extremely complex character throughout his life.

Whereas at one end, Newton was extremely focused and deeply concentrated at his works and experiments; on the other, he was a very lonely person struggling against his emotionally scattered childhood that was filled with resentments. Throughout his life, he verged on the brink of emotional collapse, occasionally falling into violent and vindictive attacks against friend and foe alike.

Newton, although an unorthodox Christian, was deeply religious and always feared being accused of refusing holy orders. Newton's journey of life oscillated between the peaks of the realizations of the truth of universe and the crests of some negative feelings, like hatred towards women, volatile temper, fear, resentments and many other emotional complexities. The seed of his complex character lies in his lonesome and distraught childhood. It seems, that the sorrow and solitude culminated inside the kid Newton was transformed in to the great affection and inquisition for Mother Nature in due course. OUR MOTHER EARTH also lovingly opened her secrets to her dear child, Newton.

A versatile scientist, an innovative genius, a sensitive human being, a strict administrator and a meditative holy person; Newton's journey of life commences with a sad and lonely childhood.

A devastated childhood

According to the old calendar used in days past in England, Isaac Newton was born in the manor house of Woolsthorpe, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, England on the Christmas Day of 1642. Later, his date of birth was corrected in line with the Gregorian calendar as 4th January, 1643. His father, also named as Isaac Newton, was a booming illiterate farmer who cannot even sign his own name. He died in October 1642, three months before his son was born. As the prematurely born baby, Newton was a little child. His mother Hannah Ayscough reportedly said that he would have fit inside a quart mug ( 1. 1litres). In January 1646, just after Newton's third birthday, his mother remarried Barnabas Smith, the Minister of the Church at North Witham, in a close by village. She went to live with her new husband leaving her child in the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough at Woolsthorpe.

The devastated child, who had never set eyes on his father, was now suddenly parted from his mother too. As he grew older, he learned how agonizingly close his mother remained; by climbing a tree he could view the steeple of North Witham's church in the length. That's where she was living. But he was alert to the bitter undeniable fact that there is a mysterious stranger who had 'stolen' his mother away. An emotionally shattered Newton always considered himself as an orphan. Abandoned with the maternal love and care, he never found emotional support and attachment along with his grandparents. His grandfather, James Ayscough was never mentioned by Newton in later life and James too, left nothing to Newton in his will. James had made his will when Newton was a decade old. Maybe, this was one of the reason why of resentment inculcated inside Newton with respect to his grandfather.

When Newton's stepfather died in 1653, Hanna, now an extremely rich widow, returned to Woolsthorpe with the three children in tow. For more than eight years, Newton was effectively separated from his mother. His pronounced psychotic tendencies have been ascribed to this traumatic event. He developed an acute sense of insecurity that rendered him an obsessively anxious person. Now, Newton lived within an extended family comprising his mother, his grandmother, one half-brother and two half-sisters. By this time, 11 year old Newton had long since learnt to insulate himself from human contact by withdrawing in to the hidden recesses of his mind. His brother and sisters were never mentioned by Newton in his later life. It seems, he did not have any friendly or formal rapport along with his family members. It really is clear that the abandoned son not only possessed a volatile temper, but also nursed grudges and would wait years, if need be, to get revenge on those he believed had wronged him.

The young Newton disliked his stepfather and maintained some enmity towards his mother for marrying him, as revealed by the entries in a list of sins committed up to the age of 19:

"Threatening my dad and mother Smith to burn them and the house over them"

"Wishing death and hoping it for some. "

Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen considered it fairly sure that Newton had 'Asperger' syndrome. People with Asperger syndrome often have difficulty socially but most of them have above-average intelligence. They may excel in fields such as education and science. There is absolutely no delay in their cognitive development, ability to manage themselves, or curiosity about their environment. People with Asperger syndrome become over-focused or obsessed on a single object or topic, ignoring others. They want to know everything relating to this subject and frequently discuss little else. Their issues with speech and language in a social setting often lead to isolation and aloofness.

Early schooling

Hannah was determined that Newton, unlike his father, should grow up literate. During her absence, Newton was enrolled in a village school to which he walked back and forth each day. Annually after Hannah returned to Woolsthorpe, the 12 year old Newton started out attending the Free Grammar School called King's School at Grantham. Although the market town Grantham was only five miles from his home, Newton lodged with William Clarke's family at Grantham. It appears Newton's indifferent behavior with the family was the reason behind his lodging with William Clarke's family at Grantham.

At King's School, Latin and Greek were the languages of instruction, and during this period the foundations of young Newton's classical education were laid. Bible studies were also an important area of the curriculum. Newton became acquainted with the Hebrew script also. Though grammar and literature were the key focus of the institution curriculum, students also received a restricted amount of instruction in arithmetic. It is reported that rather than using the other boys after school, 'he busied himself to make knickknacks and wood models in many kinds; that purpose he previously got little saws, hatches, hammers and a whole shop of tools, which he'd use with great dexterity. '

Some of his frequently mentioned mechanical models were his windmill model, Newton's dial (as was popularly known) to learn the time, water clock etc. Water clock was made of a wooden box given to him by William Clarke's brother-in-law. It stood four feet high and had a dial at the very top with the numbers of the hours. The device was driven by a piece of wood, which alternately rose and fell based on the rhythmic dripping of water. It was kept in the room where he lived and was occasionally checked by the Clarkes to see what hour it was.

Newton was equally fascinated with kites and made them in various shapes to determine the design suitable for a sustained flight. He also made lanterns from crumpled paper and lit them with candles while walking to school on dark winter mornings. These he sometimes linked with the tails of his kites at night, frightening the country people who mistook them for passing comets. Isaac Newton had not been simply an aimless childhood tinkerer but a tinkerer using ideas and mechanism.

An interesting incident took place when the Lord protector Oliver Cromwell died in September 1658. An excellent storm swept over England, giving rise to the superstition that it was the devil riding the whirlwind to claim his lost soul. Taking advantage of a rare opportunity of the great storm, 15 year old Newton entered into a competition with many of the more athletic youths to see who could jump the farthest. By carefully timing the gusts of wind, he out leaped the other boys, much to their surprise and embarrassment. Many years later, Newton remarked to a relative that this was one of his first experiments.

According to Dr. William Stukeley, a friend of Isaac Newton, "smaller and physically weaker than most of his schoolmates, Newton attempted to teach them 'to play philosophically'. " As a teenager, Newton had desire for sketching and poetry also but these were passed soon. He had interest in books too. One of the many books that captured his attention was 'the Mysteries of Nature and Art' by John Bate, the third edition of which was published in 1654, when Newton was 11.

In light of his involvement in books and all things mechanical, one would have expected Newton to do well in his studies, but that was not the truth. His school reports described him as 'idle' and 'inattentive'. He was motivated to review partly by the desire to have revenge against a schoolyard bully. 1 day in the institution, a physical fight took place between Newton and one of is own class-mate, who was simply physically stronger and better in studies than him. Though Newton was weaker, he fought revengefully and ultimately defeated him. It really is reported that this incident proved as a turning point for Newton. He started watching his studies and soon became the top-ranked and a star student of the school. These school years were the happiest in Newton's life, but his mother Hannah had decided that he must go back to Woolsthorpe to start learning means of a respected landowner. She thought that her eldest son was the right person to control her affairs and her estate. Hannah was adament. Newton was recinded from school, but soon showed that he had no talent or curiosity about managing an estate. Dr. William Stukeley recalled, "His chief delight was to sit under a tree, with a book in his hands, or to busy himself along with his knife in cutting wood for models of something or other that struck his fancy, or he'd go to a running stream, and make little millwheels to place in to the water. " Not merely did the sheep stray and the wheat go unplanted, however the adolescent often forgot to come back home for meals, a character trait that would resurface in the adult Newton. Linked to his passion for learning one of the sin listed by Newton was:-

. . . setting my heart on money, learning, and pleasure more than Thee. . .

This plainly tells us how passionate Newton was about learning.

On the other hand, all the endeavors associated with an annoyed Hannah to change Newton's behavior went into vain and Newton continued to reside in for the creation of his own mind.

Impressed by the models and devices made by Newton and his urge for knowledge, Henry Stokes, the headmaster of King's School, who was simply keeping close tabs on his star pupil, finally made a decision to intercede on Newton's behalf. According to him, "The only way whereby he could preserve or raise his fortune must be by fitting him for the university. " Henry Stokes had a company belief in the extraordinary possibilities inside Newton. He visited Hannah at Woolsthorpe and tried to make her understand. The headmaster even offered to forego forty shillings required of all pupils born more than a mile from Grantham, no small sacrifice for a man of modest mean. With an illiterate woman, land was the only thing that mattered, which she owned now after her two marriages. She was struggling to understand Newton as a person and the necessity and need for higher studies for him. She finally turned to her trusted brother, William Ayscough for advice. To her surprise, William also advised her that Newton should go back to school and for that reason, a reluctant Hannah gave her consent.

At age 17, Newton returned to the King's School in Grantham in 1660 to complete his school education. This time around, he lodged with Henry Stokes, the headmaster of the school. It seems Henry Stokes was the individual who shaped Newton's intellect in its initial stage to be a future scientist. Finally, in 1661, an 18 year old Newton completed his school education.

At the moment of departure, with tears in his eyes, Henry Stokes made a speech praising the young man and urging the other youths to follow his example. On a window ledge of King's School, using a penknife, Newton left a straightforward, everlasting record to be gazed after by later generation of curious admirers: "I. Newton. "

At Trinity College Cambridge

On 5th June, 1661, Newton entered Trinity College, Cambridge. He was over the age of most of his fellow students but, even though his mother was financially well off, he entered as a sizar- sort of work-study role. At Cambridge, a sizar was students who received an allowance towards university expenses in exchange for acting as a servant to other students. There is certainly some ambiguity in his position as a sizar, for he appears to have associated with 'better class' students rather than other sizars. Some reports suggested that Newton may have had Humphrey Babington, a distant relative who was simply a Fellow of Trinity, as his patron. This reasonable explanation would fit well using what is well known and also mean that his mother didn't subject him unnecessarily to hardship, as some of his biographers claim.

It is reported, that primarily Newton's aim at Cambridge was a Law degree. At that time, the college's teachings were predicated on those of Aristotle (Greek philosopher and polymath), whom Newton supplemented with modern philosophers such as Descartes, Gassendi, Hobbs and specifically Boyle and astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. He recorded his thoughts in a book which he entitled Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae (Certain Philosophical Questions).

It is clear that Newton was yet far away from the eye or the studies of Mathematical Sciences. How he got introduced to the innovative mathematical texts of his day is also ambiguous. According to the famous mathematician Abraham de Moivre, Newton's interest in mathematics started out in the autumn of 1663 when he bought an astrology book (astrological science is actually pure mathematical in its content) at a good in Cambridge and discovered that he could not understand the mathematics in it. Again attempting to read a trigonometry book, he found that he lacked understanding of geometry therefore he decided to read the famous mathematician Barrow's edition of Euclid's "Elements", a famous book on mathematics. The first few results were very easy that he almost gave up, but he:-

. . . changed his mind when he read that parallelograms upon the same base and between your same parallels are equal.

After Euclid's Elements, Newton studied many books on mathematics like Oughtred's "Clavis Mathematica", Descartes "La Geometrie" and "Analytical Geometry" by ViЁte. Newton also studied Wallis's Algebra and it appears that his first original mathematical work originated from his study of this text. He read Wallis's method for finding a square of equal area to a parabola and a hyperbola that used indivisibles. Newton made notes on Wallis's treatment of series and also devised his own proofs of the theorems writing:-

Thus Wallis doth it, but it can be done thus. . .

There is not any evidence or any reference to a guiding hand for Newton. It leads to the belief that Newton alone was accountable for his Mathematical education.

Newton's talent started to emerge on the arrival of Barrow to the Lucasian chair at Cambridge in 1663. The incumbent of the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, usually called the Lucasian Professor, is the holder of your mathematics professorship at the University of Cambridge, England. It really is widely regarded as one of the world's most prestigious academic posts. The post was founded in 1663 by Henry Lucas, who was simply Cambridge University's Person in Parliament from 1639-1640. The post was officially established by King Charles II on January 18, 1664. It is a remarkable account of how Newton's ideas were already forming around 1664. He headed the written text with a Latin statement meaning "Plato is my pal, Aristotle is my friend, but my best friend is truth" showing himself a free of charge thinker from an early stage.

In 1664, at age 20, Newton became a Fellow at Trinity College. Certainly the date matches the beginnings of Newton's deep mathematical studies. Despite some evidence that his progress was not particularly good, 21 year old Newton was elected a scholar on 28th April, 1664, after passing the required scholarship examinations. Promoted from the title of 'sizar' to a 'scholar', he was now eligible for receive free meals from his school and a regular stipend. Moreover, he could remain at Trinity to take his master's degree. And lastly, at the age of 22, Newton received his Bachelor's degree in the spring of 1665.

In the summertime of 1665 Newton had to return to his home in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire as the university temporarily closed as a precaution against the Great Plague. At Lincolnshire, in a period of less than 2 yrs, he started revolutionary advances in Mathematics, Optics, Physics and Astronomy.

While Newton remained at home in those so called plague years (1665-67), he laid the foundations for differential and integral calculus, several years before its independent discovery by Leibniz, the famous German mathematician. Newton termed it as the 'method of fluxions'. It was predicated on his crucial insight that the integration of an function is merely the inverse procedure to differentiating it. Taking differentiation as the essential operation, Newton produced simple analytical methods that unified many separate techniques previously developed to solve apparently unrelated problems such as finding areas, tangents, the lengths of curves and the maxima and minima of functions. He also learned the generalized binomial theorem and commenced to develop a mathematical theory that later became infinitesimal calculus, optics and the law of gravitation.

During this period, Newton experienced the insight that has since turn into a legend. About this period, decades later, he wrote to the French scholar Pierre Des Maizeaux, "For in those days I got in the prime of my age of invention and minded mathematics and philosophy more than at any time since. "

In 1667, he returned to Cambridge as a minor Fellow of Trinity. Fellows were necessary to become ordained priests (Ordination is the procedure by which folks are consecrated, i. e. , made to associate with the sacred and set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies), something Newton wanted to avoid due to his unorthodox views. Luckily for Newton, there was no specific deadline for ordination, and maybe it's postponed indefinitely. However, the condition became more severe later in 1669, when Newton was elected for the prestigious Lucasian Chair.

Just after being awarded his Master's Degree, at age 25 and a half, Newton was elected for a significant fellowship in July 1668 which allowed him to dine at the Fellows' Table. In July 1669, Barrow, who was simply the Lucasian Professor at Cambridge since 1663, tried to ensure that Newton's mathematical achievements became known to the earth. He sent Newton's text 'De Analysi' to John Collins, an English mathematician in London, writing:-

[Newton] "brought me the other day some papers, wherein he set down methods of calculating the dimensions of magnitudes like that of Mr Mercator concerning the hyperbola, but very general; as also of resolving equations; that i suppose will please you; and I will send you them by another. "

Collins corresponded with all the leading mathematicians of the day so that Barrow's action may lead to quick recognition. Collins showed Brouncker, the President of the Royal Society, Newton's results (with the author's permission) but following this Newton requested that his manuscript be returned.

Newton's work has been said, "to distinctly advance every branch of mathematics then studied". His work on the topic usually known as fluxions or calculus, observed in a manuscript of October 1666, is now published among Newton's mathematical papers. The writer of the manuscript "De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas", sent by Barrow to John Collins in June 1669, was discovered by Barrow in a letter sent to Collins in August of this year as:

"Mr. Newton, a fellow of the college, very young. . . but of a fantastic genius and proficiency in these exact things. "

Barrow resigned from the Lucasian chair in 1669 to devote himself to divinity, recommending Newton, still only 27 years old, to be appointed in his place. In those times, any fellow of Cambridge or Oxford was required to become an ordained priest. However, the conditions of the Lucasian professorship needed that the holder not be active in the church (presumably in order to have significantly more time for science). Newton argued that this should exempt him from the ordination requirement, and Charles II, whose permission was needed, accepted this argument. Thus, a conflict between Newton's religious views and Anglican orthodoxy was averted. Soon after his appointment as Lucasian Professor, Newton visited London and twice met with Collins but later wrote:

". . . having forget about acquaintance with him I did not think it becoming to urge him to communicate anything. "

Newton's first work as Lucasian Professor was on Optics and this was also the topic of his first lecture course which started out in January 1670. He previously reached the conclusion through the two plague years that white light is not really a simple entity. This view of Newton regarding white light was an completely new idea. Till that date every scientist since Aristotle had believed that white light was a simple single entity. However, the chromatic aberration in a telescope lens convinced Newton otherwise. When he passed a thin beam of sunlight by way of a glass prism, Newton noted a spectral range of seven colours was formed.

Developing over a few years, a series of increasingly elaborate, refined and exact experiments, Newton found out measurable and mathematical patterns in the phenomenon of colour. He found white light to be a combination of infinitely varied coloured rays (manifest in the rainbow and the spectrum), with each ray definable by the angle by which it is refracted on entering or leaving confirmed transparent medium. He correlated this notion along with his study of the interference colours of thin films (for example, of oil on water, or soap bubbles), by using a simple technique of extreme acuity to measure the thickness of such films.

Newton held that light contains streams of minute particles. From his experiments he could infer the magnitudes of the transparent 'corpuscles' forming the surfaces of bodies, which, according with their dimensions, so interacted with white light as to reflect selectively, the various observed colours of these surfaces. He argued, white light was really a mixture of many types of rays which were refracted at slightly different angles, and that every different kind of ray produced another type of spectral colour. Newton was led by this reasoning to the erroneous conclusion that telescopes using refracting lenses would always suffer chromatic aberration. He therefore proposed and constructed a reflecting telescope in 1672.

At the age of 29 years, Newton was elected a fellow of the Royal Society after donating a reflecting telescope. In the same year, Newton published his first scientific paper on light and colour in the 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society'. The paper was generally well received, but Robert Hooke, the society's celebrated curator of experiments, and Huygens, the famous mathematician, objected and criticized it bitterly. Newton could not take it easy. He locked horns with Robert Hooke.

In 1675, at the age of 32, Newton ventured just one more paper, which again drew lightning, this time around charged with claims that he had plagiarized from Hooke. The charges were entirely ungrounded but a 'twice burnt Newton', withdrew. The ensuing controversy, which continued until 1678, established a pattern in Newton's behavior. He was always taken in two directions; there is something in his nature which wanted fame and recognition just one more side of him feared criticism and the simplest way to don't be criticized was to publish nothing. Although both men made their peace with an exchange of polite letters, Newton turned in on himself and from the Royal Society which he associated with Hooke as you of its leaders.

Newton was also engaged in another exchange on his theory of colours with a circle of English Jesuits in LiЁge, perhaps the most revealing exchange of all. Although their objections were shallow, their contention that his experiments were mistaken lashed him into a fury. The correspondence dragged on until 1678, whenever a final shriek of rage from Newton, apparently accompanied by a complete nervous breakdown, was followed by silence. The death of his mother the next year completed his isolation.

It is reported, that Newton had an extremely bitter relationship along with his mother in later life also. Abandoned with the motherly love and care since childhood, he collected rage and resentment towards women. May be this was the real reason for his illogical hatred towards women during his entire life. There is no proof love or romance in Newton's life. At most, what can be said is, that no evidence has been uncovered that he had any partnership. However, it is also reported that Newton was once engaged, but he never married. This claim was made by Dr. William Stukeley, in 1727, in a letter about Newton written to Dr. Richard Mead, an English physician and a fellow of Royal Society. Charles Hutton, who in the late 18th century collected oral traditions about earlier scientists, declares that there "do not look like any sufficient reason behind his never marrying, if he previously an inclination so to do. It really is more likely that he had a constitutional indifference to the state and even to the sex in general. " After his nervous breakdown, for six years Newton withdrew from intellectual commerce except when others initiated a correspondence, which he always broke off as fast as possible.

Newton was focusing on many subjects at the same time. His greatest achievement was his work in physics and celestial mechanics, which culminated in the idea of universal gravitation. Newton had early versions of his celebrated 'Three laws of Motion' since 1666. He had discovered the law giving the centrifugal force on the body moving uniformly in a circular path. However, he didn't have the correct understanding of the mechanics of circular motion.

Newton was inspired to formulate his theory of gravitation by watching nov an apple from a tree. Newton himself told this story many times which is confirmed by his friend William Stukeley also. Stukeley once visited Newton at his home in Kensington near London. After dining, they went in to the garden to drink tea under the shade of some apple trees. Amidst other discourse, Stukeley wrote, "he told me he was just in the same situation as when formerly the idea of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood. "

John Conduitt, Newton's assistant at the Royal Mint (your body permitted to manufacture, or mint coins in UK) and husband of Newton's niece, also described the event when he wrote about Newton's life: "In the entire year 1666 he retired again from Cambridge to his mother in Lincolnshire. Whilst he was pensively meandering in a garden it arrived to his thought that the energy of gravity (which brought an apple from a tree to the bottom) had not been limited by a certain distance from Earth, but that power must extend much further than was usually thought. You will want to up to the Moon said he to himself & if so, that must influence her motion & perhaps retain her in her orbit, whereupon he fell a calculation what would be the result of that supposition. "

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