Writers

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Isaac Newton

1642-1726

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author (described in his own day as a "natural philosopher") who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. Newton was born in a small English village, Woolsthorpe. His father had died 3 months previously and his mother abandoned him 2 years later. His mother, Hannah Ayscough, remarried, moved to another village with husband Barnabas Smith (the couple had 3 children), and left Isaac with his grandmother.

For nine years—until his stepfather died in 1653—the child saw little to nothing of his mother and grew to hate his stepfather intensely. After his mother was widowed a second time, she wanted Isaac to manage her property, but the boy was relieved of this obligation when it become apparent he wouldn’t do it well. Instead he was sent to a grammar school—a university preparatory school—and arrived at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1661. He graduated in 1665 and became a staff member at Trinity College in 1667. The work considered his most important was the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (published in 1687) in which he set out the 3 laws of motion—3 fundamental laws of physics—and the law of universal gravity. He also invented a new type of mathematics, calculus, and the reflecting telescope (which uses mirrors to reflect light). Newton was knighted in 1705.