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Scientist of the Week – Issac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was born in 1643 and began studying at Cambridge University in 1661, where he was made Professor is Mathematics in 1969.

Newton published Principia in 1687 which outlines his three laws of motion and his law of gravity.

  • The first of his three laws of motion states that an object will keep moving in the same direction unless a force acts on it to make it change direction, speed up or slow down.
  • The second law of motion is that the bigger the mass of an object, the bigger the force is needed to make it accelerate and move. He created a mathematical formula for the second law of motion: F=ma (the force (F) needed is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by the rate of acceleration).
  • His third law of motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’.
  • Newton described gravity as a pulling force that keeps people on the ground rather than floating off. He also noted that gravity keeps the moon in orbit. Newton told the story of seeing an apple fall to the ground from a tree which inspired him to wonder why it fell down, rather than up or across. This led to his work on defining gravity. Newton developed the universal law of gravitation, which states that two things will be attracted to one another and that the mass of each object will affect the amount of attraction.

Newton was interested in light and colour. He experimented in a dark room with light and prisms and discovered that light could be split into lots of different colours – a rainbow. He also discovered that something appears to be a certain colour because of the amount of light that it absorbs and/or reflects.

Newton also developed a strand of mathematics called calculus. This type of mathematics helps find lengths, volumes and areas through calculation. Calculus also helps mathematicians to calculate rates of change.

Newton died in 1727 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Facts about Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton is best known for 'discovering' gravity, but he worked on so many different topics that our understanding of the world was changed forever by his work.

Newton had many roles in his life beyond his scientific research: he was Warden and Master of the Mint, and President of The Royal Society, as well as a member of parliament (MP).

Newton was born very early (premature) and his family thought he would die, but he actually went on to live to the age of 85.

Newton was a grumpy man and often argued with people.

Newton discovered that white light is made up of a range of colours.

Newton’s mum wanted him to become a farmer. Newton had other ideas!

Newton initially studied for a law degree at Cambridge University. During this time he bought a book on maths but didn’t understand it.

Newton owned more books on history than on science.

When he was an MP, Newton only ever spoke one sentence – and that was to ask for a window to be closed!

Newton was knighted by Queen Anne on April 16, 1705.