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COOL Archives: Sir Isaac Newton


Posted on Saturday, September 30 @ 20:02:37 UTC by wyldwynd

newtonSir Isaac Newton, FRS (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727) [OS: 25 December 1642 – 20 March 1727] was an English physics, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, and natural philosopher who is generally regarded as one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians in history. Newton wrote the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, in which he described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, laying the groundwork for classical mechanics. By deriving Kepler's laws of planetary motion from this system, he was the first to show that the motion of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws. The unifying and deterministic power of his laws was integral to the scientific revolution and the advancement of heliocentris. He also was a devout Christian, studied the Bible daily and wrote more on religion than on natural science.

Although by the calendar in use at the time of his birth he was born on Christmas Day 1642, the date of 4 January 1643 is used because this is the Gregorian calendar date.

Among other scientific discoveries, Newton realized that the spectrum of colors observed when white light passes through a prism is inherent in the white light and not added by the prism (as Roger Bacon had claimed in the thirteenth century), and notably argued that light is composed of particles. He also developed a law of cooling, describing the rate of cooling of objects when exposed to air. He enunciated the principles of conservation of momentum and angular momentum. Finally, he studied the speed of sound in air, and voiced a theory of the origin of stars. Despite this renown in mainstream science, Newton spent much of his time working on alchemy rather than physics, writing considerably more papers on the former than the latter.


Newton played a major role in the development of calculus, famously sharing credit with Gottfried Leibniz. He also made contributions to other areas of mathematics, for example the generalized binomial theorem. The mathematician and mathematical physicist Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736–1813), often said that Newton was the greatest genius that ever existed, and once added "and the most fortunate, for we cannot find more than once a system of the world to establish."



Early years

Newton was born at Woolsthorpe Manor, in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth a hamlet in the county of Lincolnshire. By his own later accounts, Newton was born prematurely and no one expected him to live; his mother Hannah Ayscough said that his body at that time could have fit inside a quart mug. His father, also named Isaac, had been a yeoman farmer and had died three months before Newton's birth, at the time of the English Civil War. When Newton was three, his mother remarried and went to live with her new husband, leaving her son in the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough.

According to E.T. Bell and H. Eves:

Newton began his schooling in the village schools and was later sent to The King's School, Grantham, where he became the top boy in the school. At Kings he lodged with the local apothecary, William Clarke and eventually became engaged to the apothecary's stepdaughter, Anne Storer, before he went off to Cambridge University at the age of 19. As Newton became engrossed in his studies, the romance cooled and Miss Storer married someone else. It is said he kept a warm memory of this love, but Newton had no other recorded "sweethearts" and never married.
However, Bell and Eves' sources for this claim, William Stukeley and Mrs Vincent (the former Miss Storer - actually named Katherine, not Anne), merely say that Newton entertained "a passion" for Storer while he lodged at the Clarke house.

From the age of about twelve until he was seventeen, Newton was educated at The King's School, Grantham (where his signature can still be seen upon a library window sill). He was removed from school and by Oct 1659 he was to be found at Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, where his mother attempted to make a farmer of him. He was, by later reports of his contemporaries, thoroughly unhappy with the work. It appears to be Henry Stokes, master at the King's School, who persuaded his mother to send him back to school so that he might complete his education. This he did at the age of eighteen, achieving an admirable final report. His teacher said:

His genius now begins to mount upwards apace and shine out with more strength. He excels particularly in making verses. In everything he undertakes, he discovers an application equal to the pregnancy of his parts and exceeds even the most sanguine expectations I have conceived of him.
In June 1661 he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge. At that time, the college's teachings were based on those of Aristotle, but Newton preferred to read the more advanced ideas of modern philosophers such as Descartes and astronomers such as Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler. In 1665 he discovered the generalized binomial theorem and began to develop a mathematical theory that would later become calculus. Soon after Newton had obtained his degree in 1665, the University closed down as a precaution against the Great Plague. For the next 18 months Newton worked at home on calculus, optics and law of gravitation. Newton often did not share concepts he had discovered unless he was asked. For example, he formulated calculus 30 years before he told anyone else about it.

Middle years

Newton became a fellow of Trinity College in 1669. In the same year he circulated his findings in De Analysi per Aequationes Numeri Terminorum Infinitas (On Analysis by Infinite Series), and later in De methodis serierum et fluxionum (On the Methods of Series and Fluxions), whose title gave rise to the "method of fluxions".

Newton and Gottfried Leibniz developed the calculus independently, using different notations. Although Newton had worked out his method years before Leibniz, he published almost nothing about it until 1693, and did not give a full account until 1704. Meanwhile, Leibniz began publishing a full account of his methods in 1684. Moreover, Leibniz's notation and "differential Method" were universally adopted on the Continent, and after 1820 or so, in the British Empire. Newton claimed that he had been reluctant to publish his calculus because he feared being mocked for it. Starting in 1699, other members of the Royal Society accused Leibniz of plagiarism, and the dispute broke out in full force in 1711. Thus began the bitter calculus priority dispute with Leibniz, which marred the lives of both Newton and Leibniz until the latter's death in 1716. This dispute created a divide between British and Continental mathematicians that may have retarded the progress of British mathematics by at least a century.

Newton is generally credited with the generalized binomial theorem, valid for any exponent. He discovered Newton's identities, Newton's method, classified cubic plane curves (polynomials of degree three in two variables), made substantial contributions to the theory of finite differences, and was the first to use fractional indices and to employ coordinate geometry to derive solutions to Diophantin equations. He approximated partial sums of the harmonic series by logarithms (a precursor to Euler's summation formula), and was the first to use power series with confidence and to revert power series. He also discovered a new formula for pi.

He was elected Lucasian professor of mathematics in 1669. In that day, any fellow of Cambridge or Oxford had to be an ordained Anglican priest. However, the terms of the Lucasian professorship required that the holder not be active in the church (presumably so as to have more time for science). Newton argued that this should exempt him from the ordination requirement, and Charles II, whose permission was needed, accepted this argument. Thus a conflict between Newton's religious views and Anglican orthodoxy was averted.

Optics

From 1670 to 1672 he lectured on optics. During this period he investigated the refraction of light, demonstrating that a prism could decompose white light into a spectrum of colours, and that a lens and a second prism could recompose the multicoloured spectrum into white light. He also showed that the coloured light does not change its properties, by separating out a coloured beam and shining it on various objects. Newton noted that regardless of whether it was reflected or scattered or transmitted, it stayed the same colour. Thus the colours we observe are the result of how objects interact with the incident already-coloured light, not the result of objects generating the colour. For more details, see Newton's theory of colour. Many of his findings in this field were criticized by later theorists, the most well-known being Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who postulated his own colour theories.

From this work he concluded that any refracting telescope would suffer from the dispersion of light into colours, and invented a reflecting telescope (today known as a Newtonian telescope) to bypass that problem. By grinding his own mirrors, using Newton's rings to judge the quality of the optics for his telescopes, he was able to produce a superior instrument to the refracting telescope, due primarily to the wider diameter of the mirror. (Only later, as glasses with a variety of refractive properties became available, did achromatic lenses for refractors become feasible.) In 1671 the Royal Society asked for a demonstration of his reflecting telescope. Their interest encouraged him to publish his notes On Colour, which he later expanded into his Opticks. When Robert Hooke criticised some of Newton's ideas, Newton was so offended that he withdrew from public debate. The two men remained enemies until Hooke's death.

In one experiment, to prove that colour perception is caused by pressure on the eye, Newton slid a darning needle around the side of his eye until he could poke at its rear side, dispassionately noting "white, darke & coloured circles" so long as he kept stirring with "ye bodkin."

Newton argued that light is composed of particles, but he had to associate them with waves to explain the diffraction of light (Opticks Bk. II, Props. XII-L). Later physicists instead favoured a purely wavelike explanation of light to account for diffraction. Today's quantum mechanics restores the idea of "wave-particle duality", although photons bear very little resemblance to Newton's corpuscles (e.g., corpuscles refracted by accelerating toward the denser medium).

 Newton is believed to have been the first to explain precisely the formation of the rainbow from water droplets dispersed in the atmosphere in a rain shower. Figure 15 of Part II of Book One of the Opticks shows a perfect illustration of how this occurs.

In his Hypothesis of Light of 1675, Newton posited the existence of the ether to transmit forces between particles. Newton was in contact with Henry More, the Cambridge Platonist who was born in Grantham, on alchemy, and now his interest in the subject revived. He replaced the ether with occult forces based on Hermetic ideas of attraction and repulsion between particles. John Maynard Keynes, who acquired many of Newton's writings on alchemy, stated that "Newton was not the first of the age of reason: he was the last of the magicians." Newton's interest in alchemy cannot be isolated from his contributions to science. (This was at a time when there was no clear distinction between alchemy and science.) Had he not relied on the occult idea of action at a distance, across a vacuum, he might not have developed his theory of gravity. (See also Isaac Newton's occult studies.)

In 1704 Newton wrote Optics, in which he expounded his corpuscular theory of light. He considered light to be made up of extremely subtle corpuscles, that ordinary matter was made of grosser corpuscles and speculated that through a kind of alchemical transmutation "Are not gross Bodies and Light convertible into one another,...and may not Bodies receive much of their Activity from the Particles of Light which enter their Composition?" Newton also constructed a primitive form of a frictional electrostatic generator, using a glass globe (Optics, 8th Query).

Gravity and motion

In 1679, Newton returned to his work on mechanics, i.e., gravitation and its effect on the orbits of planets, with reference to Kepler's laws of motion, and consulting with Hooke and Flamsteed on the subject. He published his results in De Motu Corporum (1684). This contained the beginnings of the laws of motion that would inform the Principia.

The Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (now known as the Principia) was published on 5 July 1687 with encouragement and financial help from Edmond Halley. In this work Newton stated the three universal laws of motion that were not to be improved upon for more than two hundred years. He used the Latin word gravitas (weight) for the force that would become known as gravity, and defined the law of universal gravitation. In the same work he presented the first analytical determination, based on Boyle's law, of the speed of sound in air.

With the Principia, Newton became internationally recognized. He acquired a circle of admirers, including the Swiss-born mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, with whom he formed an intense relationship that lasted until 1693. The end of this friendship led Newton to a nervous breakdown.

Later life

In the 1690s Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible. Henry More's belief in the infinity of the universe and rejection of Cartesian dualism may have influenced Newton's religious ideas. A manuscript he sent to John Locke in which he disputed the existence of the Trinity was never published. Later works — The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728) and Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733) — were published after his death. He also devoted a great deal of time to alchemy (see above).

Newton was also a member of the Parliament of England from 1689 to 1690 and in 1701, but his only recorded comments were to complain about a cold draft in the chamber and request that the window be closed.

Newton moved to London to take up the post of warden of the Royal Mint in 1696, a position that he had obtained through the patronage of Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He took charge of England's great recoining, somewhat treading on the toes of Master Lucas (and finagling Edmond Halley into the job of deputy comptroller of the temporary Chester branch). Newton became perhaps the best-known Master of the Mint upon Lucas' death in 1699, a position Newton held until his death. These appointments were intended as sinecures, but Newton took them seriously, retiring from his Cambridge duties in 1701, and exercising his power to reform the currency and punish clippers and counterfeiters. As Master of the Mint Newton unofficially moved the Pound Sterling to the gold standard from silver in 1717; great reforms at the time and adding considerably to the wealth and stability of England. It was his work at the Mint, rather than his earlier contributions to science, that earned him a knighthood from Queen Anne in 1705.

Newton was made President of the Royal Society in 1703 and an associate of the French Académie des Sciences. In his position at the Royal Society, Newton made an enemy of John Flamsteed, the Astronomer Royal, by prematurely publishing Flamsteed's star catalogue, which Newton had used in his studies.

Newton died in London on March 20th, 1727, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His half-niece, Catherine Barton Conduitt, served as his hostess in social affairs at his house on Jermyn Street in London; he was her "very loving Uncle", according to his letter to her when she was recovering from smallpox. Although Newton, who had no children, had divested much of estate onto relatives in his last years he actually died intestate. His considerable liquid estate was divided equally between his eight half-nieces and half-nephews (three Pilkingtons, three Smiths and two Bartons (including Catherine Barton Conduitt). Woolsthorpe Manor passed to his heir-in-law, a John Newton ("God knows a poor representative of so great a man"), who, after six years of "cock[fight]ing, horse racing, drinking and folly" was forced to mortgage and then sell the manor before dying in a drunken accident.

After his death, Newton's body was discovered to have had massive amounts of mercury in it, probably resulting from his alchemical pursuits. Mercury poisoning could explain Newton's eccentricity in late life.

Religious views

Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became Newton's best-known discoveries, he warned against using them to view the universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He said, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."

His scientific fame notwithstanding, Newton's study of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were among his greatest passions. He devoted more time to the study of the Scriptures, the Fathers, and to Alchemy than to science, and said, "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily." Newton himself wrote works on textual criticism, most notably An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture. Newton also placed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at 3 April, AD 33, which is now the accepted traditional date. He also attempted, unsuccessfully, to find hidden messages within the Bible. Despite his focus on theology and alchemy, Newton tested and investigated these ideas with the scientific method, observing, hypothesising, and testing his theories. To Newton, his scientific and religious experiments were one and the same, observing and understanding how the world functioned.

Newton may have rejected the church's doctrine of the trinity. In a minority view, T.C. Pfizenmaier argues that he more likely held the Eastern Orthodox view of the Trinity rather than the Western one held by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and most Protestants. In his own day, he was also accused of being a Rosicrucian (as were many in the Royal Society and in the court of Charles II).

In his own lifetime, Newton wrote more on religion than he did on natural science. He believed in a rationally immanent world, but he rejected the hylozoism implicit in Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza. Thus, the ordered and dynamically informed universe could be understood, and must be understood, by an active reason, but this universe, to be perfect and ordained, had to be regular.

Newton's effect on religious thought

Newton and Robert Boyle’s mechanical philosophy was promoted by rationalist pamphleteers as a viable alternative to the pantheists and enthusiasts, and was accepted hesitantly by orthodox preachers as well as dissident preachers like the latitudinarians. Thus, the clarity and simplicity of science was seen as a way to combat the emotional and metaphysical superlatives of both superstitious enthusiasm and the threat of atheism, and at the same time, the second wave of English deists used Newton's discoveries to demonstrate the possibility of a "Natural Religion."

The attacks made against pre-Enlightenment "magical thinking," and the mystical elements of Christianity, were given their foundation with Boyle’s mechanical conception of the universe. Newton gave Boyle’s ideas their completion through mathematical proofs and, perhaps more important, was very successful in popularizing them. Newton refashioned the world governed by an interventionist God into a world crafted by a God that designs along rational and universal principles.These principles were available for all people to discover, allowed man to pursue his own aims fruitfully in this life, not the next and to perfect himself with his own rational powers.

Newton saw God as the master creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation. But the unforeseen theological consequence of his conception of God, as Leibniz pointed out, was that God was now entirely removed from the world’s affairs, since the need for intervention would only evidence some imperfection in God’s creation, something impossible for a perfect and omnipotent creator. Leibniz's theodicy cleared God from the responsibility for "l'origine du mal" by making God removed from participation in his creation. The understanding of the world was now brought down to the level of simple human reason, and humans, as Odo Marquard argued, became responsible for the correction and elimination of evil.

On the other hand, latitudinarian and Newtonian ideas taken too far resulted in the millenarians, a religious faction dedicated to the concept of a mechanical universe, but finding in it the same enthusiasm and mysticism that the Enlightenment had fought so hard to extinguish.

Enlightenment philosophers

Enlightenment philosophers chose a short history of scientific predecessors—Galileo, Boyle, and Newton principally—as the guides and guarantors of their applications of the singular concept of Nature and Natural Law to every physical and social field of the day. In this respect, the lessons of history and the social structures built upon it could be discarded.

It was Newton’s conception of the universe based upon Natural and rationally understandable laws that became the seed for Enlightenment ideology. Locke and Voltaire applied concepts of Natural Law to political systems advocating intrinsic rights; the physiocrats and Adam Smith applied Natural conceptions of psychology and self-interest to economic systems and the sociologists criticized the current social order for trying to fit history into Natural models of progress. Monboddo and Samuel Clarke resisted elements of Newton's work, but eventually rationalized it to conform with their strong religious views of nature.

Sir Isaac Newton's religious views

The law of gravity became Sir Isaac Newton's best-known discovery. Newton warned against using it to view the universe as a mere machine, like a great clock. He said:

Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.
Newton also wrote:

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” παντοκρατωρ [pantokratòr], or “Universal Ruler”. … The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect.Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.

Though he is better known for his love of science, the Bible was Sir Isaac Newton's greatest passion. He devoted more time to the study of Scripture than to science, and said, "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily." He spent a great deal of time trying to discover hidden messages within the Bible.

Newton is generally thought to have been unitarian and Arian, not holding to Trinitarianism. He listed "worshipping Christ as God" in a list of "Idolatria" in his theological notebook. In a minority view, T.C. Pfizenmaier argued that he held closer to the Eastern Orthodox view of the Trinity rather than the Western one held by Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants.

Newton and Boyle’s mechanical philosophy was promoted by rationalist pamphleteers as a viable alternative to the pantheists and enthusiasts, and was accepted hesitantly by orthodox preachers clergy as well as dissident preachers like the latitudinarians. The clarity and simplicity of science was seen as a way in which to combat the emotional and mystical superlatives of superstitious enthusiasm, as well as the threat of atheism.

The attacks made against pre-Enlightenment, magical thinking, and the mystical elements of Christianity, were given their foundation with Boyle’s mechanical conception of the universe. Newton gave Boyle’s ideas their completion through mathematical proofs, and more importantly was very successful in popularizing them. Newton refashioned the world governed by an interventionist God into a world crafted by a God that designs along rational and universal principles. These principles were available for all people to discover, allowed man to pursue his own aims fruitfully in this life, not the next, and to perfect himself with his own rational powers. The perceived ability of Newtonians to explain the world, both physical and social, through logical calculations alone is the crucial idea in the disenchantment of Christianity.

Newton saw God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation.But the unforeseen theological consequence of his conception of God, as Leibniz pointed out, was that God was now entirely removed from the world’s affairs, since the need for intervention would only evidence some imperfection in God’s creation, something impossible for a perfect and omnipotent creator. Despite waffling excuses made, God was philosophically removed from participation in his creation, and the understanding of the world is now brought down to the level of simple human reason.

On the other hand, latitudinarian and Newtonian ideas taken too far resulted in the millenarians, a religious faction dedicated to the concept of a mechanical universe, but finding in it the same enthusiasm and mysticism that the Enlightenment had fought so hard to extinguish. Newton himself may have had some interest in millenarianism as he wrote about both the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation in his Observations Upon the Prophecies

Newton’s conception of the physical world provided a stable model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world.



Note: Source:wikipedia


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