Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day in the year of 1642. He was a premature and frail infant and was not expected to survive the harsh winter of Lincolnshire, England. Adding to these difficulties, his father had died in early October of that year, leaving his mother alone to care for the newborn. Somehow the infant Isaac Newton managed to survive, and in the end, he would live to the impressive age of eighty-four.

Although the physical difficulties of his birth were overcome, traumatic family events soon to follow, would shape his psychological state of mind for the remainder of his life. When young Newton was three years old, his mother, Hannah Ayscough Newton, married sixty-three year old Barnabas Smith, the "rector" of a nearby village. Smith did not accept or want to have any relationship with the young child Isaac Newton. Isaac was left behind, even though he could see the village from has back window, to be cared for by his grandmother. The pain of separation and the cruelty of indifference, caused Newton to grow into a neurotic and misanthropic adult, who was not able to experience the friendship and affection of others. He would cope by shunning the outside world and withdrawing into his own private domain of studies and experiments.

As Isaac Newton grew, he received a grammar school education in the style of the times, that was filled with the studies of Latin and Greek. Outside of school, he mostly kept to himself, occupying his time by reading, or building experimental devices. Such activities indicated a highly intelligent young mind, not distracted by the common life around him. These activities also precluded to the practical laboratory devices that would prove to be invaluable in the future development of his theories later in life.

In the summer of 1661, Isaac Newton headed off for Trinity College in the city of Cambridge. At that time, Cambridge had been a site of higher learning for over four hundred years, an old established institution that had especially flourished earlier in the century, with the rise of Puritanism and the Reformation that was transforming England.

When Newton arrived, much of this past glory was in jeopardy, and the reasons were related to the politics of recent British history. In the year of Newton's birth, the Puritans, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, had brought a conclusion to their long campaign against the monarchy. Cromwell himself had assumed control of the English government, and in 1649, King Charles I was beheaded in Whitehall, London. The Royalists, whose base of support was anchored at Oxford University, were in retreat, while the Puritans of Cambridge had their days of glory. These days were not to last, however. The Puritan Commonwealth proved to be worse than the monarchy it had replaced. British sentiment called for a return to kingly rule. After Cromwell's death in 1658, the throne was returned to Charles II, son of Charles I, in what came to be known as the Restoration. Cambridge University became a natural target for the suspicions and hostility of the newly empowered Royalists. When Newton arrived the year after the Restoration, the University was plagued by politics and lethargy. At first, Isaac Newton began the required courses in Latin literature and Aristotelian philosophy but gradually abandoned the project, because it was clear, no one really cared whether or not he did the work. His colleagues at Trinity probably had the same reaction. Newton turned his attention elsewhere. He read voraciously and could be seen walking across the grounds in deep concentration. When an idea captured his interest, Isaac Newton became obsessively single-minded and would often neglect to eat or sleep when he was working on an intriguing problem. When he was not reading or thinking, he would conduct experiments on the nature of light, color and vision.

For all the deficiencies of Trinity college at Cambridge, it did possess a wonderful library, the very resource necessary for Newton's inquiring mind. He completely read and made himself thoroughly understand Descartes geometry [La Geometrie] without the assistance of a single tutor or professor. By reading and thinking constantly, Newton advanced from a fairly ordinary scientific and mathematical background to a mastery of the most up to date discoveries of the time.

In 1664, Isaac Newton was promoted to the status of scholar at Trinity, acquiring a four-year period of financial support toward a Master's degree. This promotion brought with it even greater freedom to follow his interests, and combined with the solid background of his readings, unleashed one of the greatest intellects in history.

He began what were probably the most productive two years that any thinker of college age, had ever experienced. His days of discovery were spent in part at Cambridge and in part back at Woolsthorpe, the home of his mother which she inherited after the death of her husband Barnabas Smith, because of the closing of the University after an outbreak of the Bubonic plague.

Early in 1665, Isaac Newton discovered what we now call the generalized binomial theorem which became a major component of his subsequent mathematical works. The binomial theorem dealt with expanding expressions of the form {a+b}n. By studying the expansion of the binomial, he was able to devise a formula for generating the binomial coefficients directly, bypassing the tedious process of actually multiplying {a+b} many times over or the process of constructing Blaise Pascal's triangle [Pascal discovered that coefficients could easily be obtained from the array known as Pascal's triangle, where each entry in the body of the triangle is obtained by adding the numbers in the row above to the left and right with the last line of the triangle giving the needed coefficients] down to the necessary row. His belief in the persistence of patterns suggested to him that the formula that correctly generated coefficients for binomial powers like {a+b}2 should work just as well for powers like {a+b}1/2 or {a+b}-3. Soon after he came upon his "method of fluxions" which today is known by the name of differential calculus. Newton would describe it as the "Analysis by Equations of an infinite number of terms". A method he devised for measuring the quantity of curves, by means of series, infinite in the number of terms. In 1666 he had devised the "inverse method of fluxions", know as integral calculus. During this time of the two plague years, 1665 to 1666, as well as formulating his discoveries of calculus, he started work on his groundbreaking theory of colors. He set out to prove that white light was composed of a mixture of various types of light, each producing a different color of the spectrum when refracted by a prism. he devised a series of precise experiments to prove that light was composed of minute particles. He also began to think about the embryonic theory of universal gravitation, the forces which keep the planets in their orbits and he set out to discover the cause of the planets elliptical orbits. Newton deduced the inverse-square law, which states that the force of gravity between any two object is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the objects centers. He recognized that gravitation is universal, that the same force that causes an apple to fall to the ground, causes the moon to revolve around the Earth. The theory of universal gravitation, upon which, more than any other single achievement rests his scientific fame. The burst of creativity he exhibited in this short span of time, defined and directed not only the research of his own lifetime, but in a very substantial way the future of science itself.

In 1668 Isaac Newton completed his Master's degree and was elected a fellow of Trinity College. This allowed him to stay indefinitely in his academic post with financial support, provided he took holy vows and remained celibate. The following year, the Lucasian chair of mathematics resigned and Newton was chosen as the successor.

Isaac Newton's duties as Lucasian professor were minimal. He was not required to accept students nor do any tutoring. His main job besides picking up the substantial paycheck and remaining morally chaste, was to deliver regular lectures on mathematical topics. Nevertheless his reputation began to grow, mainly through the circulation of unpublished papers. One of his public successes came when he displayed a newly invented reflecting telescope at a meeting of the Royal Society in London. This device was the perfect instrument for combining Newton's theories of light and his practical ability for building inventions. The scientific community was enthralled with his invention, and to this day, reflecting telescopes, which rely on a mirror at the base rather than a lens at the top are the preferred telescopes of Astronomy.

After the success of this invention, Newton soon submitted a paper on optics to the Royal Society. This time however, his radical ideas were met with skepticism, from scholars such as Robert Hooke. Stung by the criticism, he withdrew into his own private world, refusing to publish or communicate his ideas, least they lead him into further arguing with his less enlightened peers. This decision meant that brilliant scientific papers would lie unknown and unpublished in his desk drawers for decades, and in later years had consequences when he would claim priority for his ideas, particularly the calculus, only to have them first published by others.

In 1684 a renowned member of the Royal Society, Edmond Halley, took it upon himself to persuade Isaac Newton to finish the proof he had started years earlier, detailing the elliptical orbit around the Sun of a planet's orbit if it were drawn towards the Sun by a force that varied inversely as the square of the distance between the object's centers. Newton told Halley that he had solved the problem years before but had misplaced the proof in his office. At Halley's request, and offer to pay all publishing costs as a gift to science and humanity, Newton spent three months reconstructing and improving the proof. Then in a period of energy sustained for eighteen months, during which time he seldom ate, he further developed these ideas until their complete works filled three volumes. Newton titled the work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

Principia was moderately praised upon its publication in 1687, but only about five hundred copies of the first edition were printed. Newton's nemesis, Robert Hooke, publically claimed that letters he had written in 1679 had provided scientific ideas that were vital to Newton's discoveries. His claims infuriated Newton who vowed to delay publication of Book three. Newton finally relented and published the final book of Principia. Newton's hatred for Hooke consumed him for years afterward. In 1693, he suffered a nervous breakdown and retired from research. He withdrew from the Royal Society until Hooke's death in 1703, then was elected its president and reelected each year until his own death in 1727. He also withheld publication of Optics, his important study of light and color that would become his most widely read work, until after Hooke was dead. It was in an appendix to the Optics that Newton first published an account of his fluxional methods, a work called De Quadratura. Although he had developed these idea forty years earlier, it was only in 1704 that the world saw them in print.

__BIBLIOGRAPHY __

1] The Story of Mathematics By Richard Mankiewicz

Pages 99 to 110 Mathematics in Motion

2] The Mathematical Universe By William Dunham

Knighted Newton Pages 129 to 142 and Lost Leibniz Pages 143 to 158

3] Journey Through Genius The Great Theorems of Mathematics By William Dunham

Pages 155 to 190

4] On The Shoulders of Giants The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy By Stephen Hawking

Sir Isaac Newton His Life Work and Principia Pages 725 1160

5] Lives and Legacies An Encyclopedia of People Who Changed the World By Doris Simonis

Leibniz Page 129 and Newton Page 151

6] Mathematic From the Birth of Numbers By Jan Gullberg

Pages 671 to 765

7] Britannica Online Encyclopedia Sir Isaac Newton [English Physicist and Mathematician]

8] An Overview of the History of Mathematics [ Alphabetical list of History Topics, History Topics Index] History Overview.mht

Mark Pierce........................