Sir Isaac Newton
When did he live?
Isaac Newton was born on December 25th 1642 in Lincolnshire, England. He died on March 20th 1727 at the age of 84.
Why is he famous?
Isaac Newton was a world-famous mathematician and scientist whose theories changed much of the understanding of how physical forces operate within the universe. His work on gravity, classical mechanics (motion and force), and celestial bodies were a major part of the ‘Scientific Revolution’ that crossed Europe from the 15th to late 18th century.
Although best known for ideas such as the theory of gravity (more formally called ‘Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation’) and his three laws of motion, Newton was also at the forefront of optics research (including the colour spectrum and telescope design), and mathematical curves.
What was his mark of history?
Isaac Newton remains one of the most famous names in history. His theories, and updates of them, remain used throughout mathematics and science and have inspired numerous other discoveries.
In 2002, Newton was voted the sixth greatest Briton to ever live. He is constantly near the top of ‘greatest scientist’ polls.
Isaac Newton is one of the most famous graduates of the University of Cambridge.
Within his life, Newton received many awards. Alongside his knighthood, he was President of the Royal Society and a member of France’s Académie des Sciences.
Newton is buried in Westminster Abbey. This is also the resting place of Charles Darwin, The Unknown Warrior, and various other famous names from British history.
Newton modestly wrote of his achievements: ‘if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’.
In some minds, Newton’s idea of an invisible force working on the Earth was seen as promoting occult ideas within science. Newton wrote against these accusations, noting that evidence of scientific phenomena (e.g. attraction always occurring) did not prove a cause. However, Newton did believe in some elements of the occult, as well as alchemy.
A famous story relates to a falling apple sparking Newton’s understanding of gravity (in some cases, the story states the apple hit Newton on the head). According to an account by Newton’s friend William Stuckley, and found in the Royal Society archives, this story is partly true (although less romantic than some imagine): upon seeing an apple fall, Newton questioned why the fall was always directly perpendicular to the ground. This was the start of his investigations into gravity.