It led to a completely new understanding of how the universe worked. Galileo continued and expanded the work of Copernicus. Isaac Newton built on the ideas of these two scientists and others. He found and proved the answers for which they searched. Isaac Newton was born in Woolsthorpe, England, on December twenty-fifth, sixteen forty-two. He was born early. He was a small baby and very weak. No one expected him to survive. But he surprised everyone. He had one of the most powerful minds in history.
And he lived until he was eighty-four. Newton's father died before he was born.
His mother married again a few years later. She left Isaac with his grandmother. The boy was not a good student. Yet he liked to make things, such as kites and clocks and simple machines. Newton also enjoyed finding new ways to answer questions or solve problems. As a boy, for example, he decided to find a way to measure the speed of the wind. On a windy day, he measured how far he could jump with the wind at his back.
Then he measured how far he could jump with the wind in his face. From the difference between the two jumps, he made his own measure of the strength of the wind. The boy was one of the best students in the school. Newton decided to get even by getting higher marks than the boy who kicked him. In a short time, Newton became the top student at the school. It soon became clear, however, that the boy was not a good farmer. He spent his time solving mathematical problems, instead of taking care of the crops.
He spent hours visiting a bookstore in town, instead of selling his vegetables in the market. An uncle decided that Newton would do better as a student than as a farmer. So he helped the young man enter Cambridge University to study mathematics. Newton completed his university studies five years later, in sixteen sixty-five.
He was twenty-two years old. At that time, a deadly plague was spreading across England.
To escape the disease, Newton returned to the family farm. He did more thinking than farming. In doing so, he found the answers to some of the greatest mysteries of science. Newton used his great skill in mathematics to form a better understanding of the world and the universe.
He used methods he had learned as a boy in making things. He experimented. Then he studied the results and used what he had learned to design new experiments. Newton's work led him to create a new method in mathematics for measuring areas curved in shape. He also used it to find how much material was contained in solid objects.
The method he created became known as integral calculus. One day, sitting in the garden, Newton watched an apple fall from a tree. He began to wonder if the same force that pulled the apple down also kept the moon circling the earth. Newton believed it was. And he believed it could be measured.
He decided that the strength of the force keeping a planet in orbit around the sun depended on two things. One was the amount of mass in the planet and the sun.
The other was how far apart they were. Newton was able to find the exact relationship between distance and gravity. He multiplied the mass of one space object by the mass of the other. Then he divided that number by the square of their distance apart. The result was the strength of the gravity force that tied them to each other. Newton proved his idea by measuring how much gravity force would be needed to keep the moon orbiting the Earth.
Then he measured the mass of the Earth and the moon, and the distance between them. He found that his measurement of the gravity force produced was not the same as the force needed. But the numbers were close. Newton did not tell anyone about his discovery. He put it aside to work on other ideas. Later, with correct measurements of the size of the Earth, he found that the numbers were exactly the same. Newton spent time studying light and colors.
This may be partly true, but no matter how many creative inspirations one gets from the manic state and how extraordinary the achievements are as a result of it, one thing is clear to all who suffer from it — this is an illness that can destroy lives and cause tremendous pain for all connected to the sufferer. He spent most of his time alone, building miniature mills, machines, carts, and other inventions. He was high strung, egotistical, and dominant. He experienced attacks of rage, which he directed toward his friends and family.
His violent temper made him unpopular and his peers and the servants rejoiced when Newton left home for Cambridge. At Cambridge, Newton made only one friend among his fellow students. His notebooks on his college years document anxiety, sadness, fear, a low opinion of himself, and suicidal thoughts.
After his appointment as Fellow of the University in Cambridge, Newton continued to have manic episodes, often forgetting to eat. Such events were usually followed by a collapse into depression, and he would become enraged by any criticism of his work. As a result, he would withdraw from the scientific community and refuse to continue his research. Despite his success and recognition, Newton was afraid to expose his work to the criticism of fellow scientists.
He kept his calculus secret until Leibniz made a claim of discovering it first. Newton avoided the company of others. When he had to interact with people, he contributed little to conversations. His relationships with other scientists were tyrannical. He would refuse to speak to those who dared to disagree with him. Newton sought quarrels with friends and foes alike. Newton had a strong aversion to fame and requested that his papers be published anonymously.
Other famous mathematicians were unable to even come near an answer. At times of depression, Newton hallucinated and had conversations with absent people.