Sir Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642 at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham in Lincolnshire. When Isaac was three years old his mother left him in the care of his grandmother to get remarried. After his mother was widowed a second time, she sent Isaac to grammar school in Grantham. He was later sent to Trinity College, at the University of Cambridge in the summer of 1661. Newton received his bachelor’s degree in 1665. After avoiding college because of the plague he returned to Trinity, which elected him to fellowship in 1667 and then received his master’s degree in 1668. He pursued his own interests: mathematics and natural philosophy ignoring the established curriculum. Isaac investigated the latest developments in mathematics and the new natural philosophy, and almost immediately made a few discoveries.

Newton’s first achievement generalized the methods that were being used to draw tangents to curves and to calculate the are swept by curves. He recognized that the two procedures were inverse operations. Newton made the fluxional method by joining them and created the mathematics that is now known as calculus. This was a method that carried modern mathematics higher than the level of Greek geometry.

Another of Newton’s interests was optics. Newton tried to explain how colors occur and he had made a theory that the sunlight is a heterogeneous blend of different rays. He also thought that each of these rays represents a different color and that reflections and refractions cause colors to appear by separating the blend into its components. Newton demonstrated his theory by passing a beam of sunlight through a transparent prism. The prism had split the beam into separate colors.

In August 1684 Newton got a visit from Edmund Halley, a British astronomer and mathematician, who discussed with Newton the problem of orbital motion. He had pursued the science of mechanics as an udergraduate, and at that time he had already entertained basic notions about universal gravitation.

During the next two and a half years, Newton established the three laws of motion. He applied these laws to Kepler’s laws of orbital motion and derived the law of universal gravitation, which explained that all bodies and space on earth are affected by the force called gravity. Newton published his theory in a book that marked a turning point in science, and also caught a lot of attention of others. Robert Hooke claimed that Newton had stolen from him a central idea of the book: that bodies attract each other with a force that varies inversely as the square of their distance. Most historians do not accept Hooke’s charge of plagiarism.

Sir Isaac Newton made important contributions to science and mathematics as you can see. He was part of the foundation of calculus, created three laws of motion, and the law of universal gravitation.

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