June 4, 1643 (actual)
Born in: Lincolnshire, England
Died on: 31 March, 1727
Career: Physicist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Natural Philosopher, Alchemist and Theologian
Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist and theologian. He made invaluable contribution to the field of science. His ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica’, published in 1687, is considered to be the most influential book in the history of science. Apart from Physics, he made contributions in the fields of Mathematics, Astronomy, Alchemy and Theology as well. Such was his reputation, that in a 2005 poll of the Royal Society, Newton was voted much more influential than Albert Einstein.
Isaac Newton was born on June 4, 1643, at Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a hamlet in the county of Lincolnshire. However, as England had not adopted the papal calendar by then, his date of birth was recorded as Christmas Day i.e. 25th December, instead of the real one. Newton was a premature child, born three months after the death of his father. His mother, Hannah Ayscough, remarried when he was 3 years old and left him to the care of his maternal grandmother.
It is believed that Newton disliked his new father stepfather and was even hostile towards his mother for remarrying. Some are of the belief that he suffered from Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. As per E.T Bell and H. Eves, he was sent to village schools and later to The King's School, Grantham, where he became the top student. Here, he became engaged with Anne Storer, the stepdaughter of local apothecary he lodged with. At the age of 19, he went to the University of Cambridge for further studies. Meanwhile, Anne got married to someone else.
In June 1661, Newton was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he entered as a sizar. Though the college education was based on Aristotle, Newton read more advanced philosophers such as Descartes and astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. In 1665, after discovering the binomial theorem, he started working on a mathematical theory, which later came to be known as calculus. Newton obtained his degree in 1665 and worked for two years on the development of his theories on calculus, optics and the law of gravitation.
Though Newton and Leibniz developed calculus independently, Newton did not publish anything about his works until 1693, for the fear of being mocked. On the other hand, Leibniz continuously published his findings. Newton is credited for discovering Newton's identities, Newton's method, classified cubic plane curves (polynomials of degree three in two variables) and even made substantial contributions to the theory of finite differences. He is known to be the first to use fractional indices and to employ coordinate geometry to derive solutions to Diophantine equations.
Newton also used and reverted the power series for the first time. He even discovered a new formula for calculating pi. In 1699, the members of the Royal society accused Leibniz of plagiarism and Newton was declared the true discoverer of the theory. From 1670 to 1672, Newton lectured on optics and investigated the refraction of light, making white light split into colors, through a prism and vice versa. This gave rise to Newton’s theory of color. He even made a refracting telescope, based on the same principle.
In 1677, Newton again started working on mechanics. In 1687, he published his work ‘Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica’, wherein he stated the three universal laws of motion. He even defined the law of universal gravitation and the first analytical determination based on Boyle’s Law. With this, he got international popularity. The list of his admirers included Swiss-born mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, with whom he shared an intense relationship until 1693. The end of this friendship led Newton to a nervous breakdown.
In 1690s, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts, associated with the interpretation of Bible. He devoted a great deal of time to alchemy. He was also a Member of Parliament of England, from 1689 to 1690 and in 1701. In 1696, he moved to London, to take up the post of warden of the Royal Mint. Newton became perhaps the best-known Master of the Mint upon Lucas' death in 1699, a position Newton held until his death. Newton was also made the President of the Royal Society in 1703 and an associate of the French Académie des Sciences.
The legendary soul died in London, on 31st March 1727. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Newton did not marry and did not have any children. Though he gave away much of his estate to his relatives, he died intestate. After Newton died, his body was discovered to contain a large amount of mercury. It is believed to have been the result of his alchemical pursuits. Moreover, mercury poisoning is also believed to be responsible for oddity in Newton’s later life.