Born in 1643, Newton came from a family of moderately successful farmers, although his father, also named Isaac, was illiterate and died before the younger Isaac was born. Consequently, the future scientist had a difficult childhood. Unappreciated by his stepfather, Newton was forced to live with his grandmother until his stepfather died, when he was reunited with his mother.
Sir Isaac Newton was actually gay, had a lifelong relationship with another man, and had a mental breakdown when said relationship ended. And of course, a counter narrative that was just a friendship, and Newton was too Puritan for that.
Newton never married and had few close friends in a relatively long life. (He died at age 84.) He suffered from his intense devotion to his studies, experiencing more than one nervous breakdown. It took him several years to recover from his first breakdown in 1675, which was followed by the subsequent shock of his mother’s death. However, he did inherit a sizable estate from her.
The legendary scientist held many notable positions in his lifetime, among them:
- 1667 — Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
- 1669 — Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge (a position now held by Stephen Hawking)
- 1689 — Member of Parliament representing Cambridge
- 1699 — Master of the Mint
- 1701 to 1702 — Member of Parliament for the second time
- 1703 — President of the Royal Society of London, the United Kingdom’s national academy of science
- 1705 — Knighted
Newton was hailed as an eminent scientist and mathematician of unparalleled genius. But Newton also studied alchemy and religion. He wrote a forensic analysis of the Bible in an effort to decode divine prophecies. He held unorthodox religious views, rejecting the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. After his death, Newton’s heir, John Conduitt, the husband of his half-niece Catherine Barton, feared that one of the fathers of the Enlightenment would be revealed as an obsessive heretic. And so for hundreds of years few people saw his work. It was only in the 1960s that some of Newton’s papers were widely published.
Isaac Newton’s Discoveries
Newton made discoveries in optics, motion and mathematics. Newton theorized that white light was a composite of all colors of the spectrum, and that light was composed of particles.
His momentous book on physics, Principia, contains information on nearly all of the essential concepts of physics except energy, ultimately helping him to explain the laws of motion and the theory of gravity. Along with mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, Newton is credited for developing essential theories of calculus.
Isaac Newton Inventions
Newton’s first major public scientific achievement was designing and constructing a reflecting telescope in 1668. As a professor at Cambridge, Newton was required to deliver an annual course of lectures and chose optics as his initial topic. He used his telescope to study optics and help prove his theory of light and color.
The Royal Society asked for a demonstration of his reflecting telescope in 1671, and the organization’s interest encouraged Newton to publish his notes on light, optics and color in 1672. These notes were later published as part of Newton’s Opticks: Or, A treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light.
Sir Isaac Newton contemplates the force of gravity, as the famous story goes, on seeing an apple fall in his orchard, circa 1665.
The Apple Myth
Between 1665 and 1667, Newton returned home from Trinity College to pursue his private study, as school was closed due to the Great Plague. Legend has it that, at this time, Newton experienced his famous inspiration of gravity with the falling apple. According to this common myth, Newton was sitting under an apple tree when a fruit fell and hit him on the head, inspiring him to suddenly come up with the theory of gravity.
While there is no evidence that the apple actually hit Newton on the head, he did see an apple fall from a tree, leading him to wonder why it fell straight down and not at an angle. Consequently, he began exploring the theories of motion and gravity.
It was during this 18-month hiatus as a student that Newton conceived many of his most important insights—including the method of infinitesimal calculus, the foundations for his theory of light and color, and the laws of planetary motion—that eventually led to the publication of his physics book Principia and his theory of gravity.
‘Principia’ and Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion
In 1687, following 18 months of intense and effectively nonstop work, Newton published Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), most often known as Principia.
Principia is said to be the single most influential book on physics and possibly all of science. Its publication immediately raised Newton to international prominence.
Principia offers an exact quantitative description of bodies in motion, with three basic but important laws of motion:
A stationary body will stay stationary unless an external force is applied to it.
Force is equal to mass times acceleration, and a change in motion (i.e., change in speed) is proportional to the force applied.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Newton and the Theory of Gravity
Newton’s three basic laws of motion outlined in Principia helped him arrive at his theory of gravity. Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that two objects attract each other with a force of gravitational attraction that’s proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.
These laws helped explain not only elliptical planetary orbits but nearly every other motion in the universe: how the planets are kept in orbit by the pull of the sun’s gravity; how the moon revolves around Earth and the moons of Jupiter revolve around it; and how comets revolve in elliptical orbits around the sun.
They also allowed him to calculate the mass of each planet, calculate the flattening of the Earth at the poles and the bulge at the equator, and how the gravitational pull of the sun and moon create the Earth’s tides. In Newton’s account, gravity kept the universe balanced, made it work, and brought heaven and Earth together in one great equation.
Isaac Newton & Robert Hooke
Not everyone at the Royal Academy was enthusiastic about Newton’s discoveries in optics and 1672 publication of Opticks: Or, A treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light. Among the dissenters was Robert Hooke, one of the original members of the Royal Academy and a scientist who was accomplished in a number of areas, including mechanics and optics.
While Newton theorized that light was composed of particles, Hooke believed it was composed of waves. Hooke quickly condemned Newton’s paper in condescending terms, and attacked Newton’s methodology and conclusions.
Hooke was not the only one to question Newton’s work in optics. Renowned Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens and a number of French Jesuits also raised objections. But because of Hooke’s association with the Royal Society and his own work in optics, his criticism stung Newton the worst.
Unable to handle the critique, he went into a rage—a reaction to criticism that was to continue throughout his life. Newton denied Hooke’s charge that his theories had any shortcomings and argued the importance of his discoveries to all of science.
In the ensuing months, the exchange between the two men grew more acrimonious, and soon Newton threatened to quit the Royal Society altogether. He remained only when several other members assured him that the Fellows held him in high esteem.
The rivalry between Newton and Hooke would continue for several years thereafter. Then, in 1678, Newton suffered a complete nervous breakdown and the correspondence abruptly ended. The death of his mother the following year caused him to become even more isolated, and for six years he withdrew from intellectual exchange except when others initiated correspondence, which he always kept short.
During his hiatus from public life, Newton returned to his study of gravitation and its effects on the orbits of planets. Ironically, the impetus that put Newton on the right direction in this study came from Robert Hooke.
In a 1679 letter of general correspondence to Royal Society members for contributions, Hooke wrote to Newton and brought up the question of planetary motion, suggesting that a formula involving the inverse squares might explain the attraction between planets and the shape of their orbits.
Subsequent exchanges transpired before Newton quickly broke off the correspondence once again. But Hooke’s idea was soon incorporated into Newton’s work on planetary motion, and from his notes it appears he had quickly drawn his own conclusions by 1680, though he kept his discoveries to himself.
In early 1684, in a conversation with fellow Royal Society members Christopher Wren and Edmond Halley, Hooke made his case on the proof for planetary motion. Both Wren and Halley thought he was on to something, but pointed out that a mathematical demonstration was needed.
In August 1684, Halley traveled to Cambridge to visit with Newton, who was coming out of his seclusion. Halley idly asked him what shape the orbit of a planet would take if its attraction to the sun followed the inverse square of the distance between them (Hooke’s theory).
Newton knew the answer, due to his concentrated work for the past six years, and replied, “An ellipse.” Newton claimed to have solved the problem some 18 years prior, during his hiatus from Cambridge and the plague, but he was unable to find his notes. Halley persuaded him to work out the problem mathematically and offered to pay all costs so that the ideas might be published, which it was, in Newton’s Principia.
Upon the publication of the first edition of Principia in 1687, Robert Hooke immediately accused Newton of plagiarism, claiming that he had discovered the theory of inverse squares and that Newton had stolen his work. The charge was unfounded, as most scientists knew, for Hooke had only theorized on the idea and had never brought it to any level of proof.
Newton, however, was furious and strongly defended his discoveries. He withdrew all references to Hooke in his notes and threatened to withdraw from publishing the subsequent edition of Principia altogether.
Halley, who had invested much of himself in Newton’s work, tried to make peace between the two men. While Newton begrudgingly agreed to insert a joint acknowledgment of Hooke’s work (shared with Wren and Halley) in his discussion of the law of inverse squares, it did nothing to placate Hooke.
As the years went on, Hooke’s life began to unravel. His beloved niece and companion died the same year that Principia was published, in 1687. As Newton’s reputation and fame grew, Hooke’s declined, causing him to become even more bitter and loathsome toward his rival.
To the very end, Hooke took every opportunity he could to offend Newton. Knowing that his rival would soon be elected president of the Royal Society, Hooke refused to retire until the year of his death, in 1703.
Newton and Alchemy
Following the publication of Principia, Newton was ready for a new direction in life. He no longer found contentment in his position at Cambridge and was becoming more involved in other issues.
He helped lead the resistance to King James II’s attempts to reinstitute Catholic teaching at Cambridge, and in 1689 he was elected to represent Cambridge in Parliament.
While in London, Newton acquainted himself with a broader group of intellectuals and became acquainted with political philosopher John Locke. Though many of the scientists on the continent continued to teach the mechanical world according to Aristotle, a young generation of British scientists became captivated with Newton’s new view of the physical world and recognized him as their leader.
One of these admirers was Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, a Swiss mathematician whom Newton befriended while in London.
However, within a few years, Newton fell into another nervous breakdown in 1693. The cause is open to speculation: his disappointment over not being appointed to a higher position by England’s new monarchs, William III and Mary II, or the subsequent loss of his friendship with Duillier; exhaustion from being overworked; or perhaps chronic mercury poisoning after decades of alchemical research.
It’s difficult to know the exact cause, but evidence suggests that letters written by Newton to several of his London acquaintances and friends, including Duillier, seemed deranged and paranoiac, and accused them of betrayal and conspiracy.
Oddly enough, Newton recovered quickly, wrote letters of apology to friends, and was back to work within a few months. He emerged with all his intellectual facilities intact, but seemed to have lost interest in scientific problems and now favored pursuing prophecy and scripture and the study of alchemy.
While some might see this as work beneath the man who had revolutionized science, it might be more properly attributed to Newton responding to the issues of the time in turbulent 17th century Britain.
Many intellectuals were grappling with the meaning of many different subjects, not least of which were religion, politics and the very purpose of life. Modern science was still so new that no one knew for sure how it measured up against older philosophies.
In 1696, Newton was able to attain the governmental position he had long sought: warden of the Mint; after acquiring this new title, he permanently moved to London and lived with his niece, Catherine Barton.
Barton was the mistress of Lord Halifax, a high-ranking government official who was instrumental in having Newton promoted, in 1699, to master of the Mint—a position that he would hold until his death.
Not wanting it to be considered a mere honorary position, Newton approached the job in earnest, reforming the currency and severely punishing counterfeiters. As master of the Mint, Newton moved the British currency, the pound sterling, from the silver to the gold standard.
The Royal Society
In 1703, Newton was elected president of the Royal Society upon Robert Hooke’s death. However, Newton never seemed to understand the notion of science as a cooperative venture, and his ambition and fierce defense of his own discoveries continued to lead him from one conflict to another with other scientists.
By most accounts, Newton’s tenure at the society was tyrannical and autocratic; he was able to control the lives and careers of younger scientists with absolute power.
In 1705, in a controversy that had been brewing for several years, German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz publicly accused Newton of plagiarizing his research, claiming he had discovered infinitesimal calculus several years before the publication of Principia.
In 1712, the Royal Society appointed a committee to investigate the matter. Of course, since Newton was president of the society, he was able to appoint the committee’s members and oversee its investigation. Not surprisingly, the committee concluded Newton’s priority over the discovery.
That same year, in another of Newton’s more flagrant episodes of tyranny, he published without permission the notes of astronomer John Flamsteed. It seems the astronomer had collected a massive body of data from his years at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England.
Newton had requested a large volume of Flamsteed’s notes for his revisions to Principia. Annoyed when Flamsteed wouldn’t provide him with more information as quickly as he wanted it, Newton used his influence as president of the Royal Society to be named the chairman of the body of “visitors” responsible for the Royal Observatory.
He then tried to force the immediate publication of Flamsteed’s catalogue of the stars, as well as all of Flamsteed’s notes, edited and unedited. To add insult to injury, Newton arranged for Flamsteed’s mortal enemy, Edmund Halley, to prepare the notes for press.
Flamsteed was finally able to get a court order forcing Newton to cease his plans for publication and return the notes—one of the few times that Newton was bested by one of his rivals.
Toward the end of this life, Newton lived at Cranbury Park, near Winchester, England, with his niece, Catherine (Barton) Conduitt, and her husband, John Conduitt.
By this time, Newton had become one of the most famous men in Europe. His scientific discoveries were unchallenged. He also had become wealthy, investing his sizable income wisely and bestowing sizable gifts to charity.
Despite his fame, Newton’s life was far from perfect: He never married or made many friends, and in his later years, a combination of pride, insecurity and side trips on peculiar scientific inquiries led even some of his few friends to worry about his mental stability.
Newton died in his sleep in London on 20 March 1727 (OS 20 March 1726; NS 31 March 1727).[a] His body was buried in Westminster Abbey. Voltaire may have been present at his funeral. A bachelor, he had divested much of his estate to relatives during his last years, and died intestate. His papers went to John Conduitt and Catherine Barton. After his death, Newton’s hair was examined and found to contain mercury, probably resulting from his alchemical pursuits. Mercury poisoning could explain Newton’s eccentricity in late life
Isaac Newton – Quotes, Life, Facts & Education – (Biography)
|Real Full Birth Name||Sir Isaac Newton|
|Nick name||Isaac Newton, Jr.|
|Profession||Mathematician, Astronomer, Theologian, Physicist, Chemist, Philisopher & Author|
|Famous for||Laws of motion. The basic principles of modern physics.|
|Age||84 years old.|
|Date of Birth (DOB), Birthday||4 January 1643|
|Birthplace/Hometown||Woolsthorpe Manor House, United Kingdom|
|Social Media Account Stats||–|
|Sun Sign (Zodiac Sign)||Capricorn|
Feet & Inches: 5′ 8″.|
Centimeters: 172 cm.
Meters: 1.72 m.
|Body Measurements (Breast-waist-hips)||–|
|Shoe Size (UK)||–|
|Parents||Newton was born three months after the death of his father.|
|Personal Life Relationship|
|Dating History?||He had a lifelong relationship with another man|
|School||The King’s School.|
|Alma Mater.||Will Update.|
|Hobbies & Favorite Things|
|Favorite Celebrities||Will update|
|Dream Holiday Destination||Will update|
|Favorite Color||Nice mystical seven colours, instead of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, > violet. distinct cyan in between the blue and green|
|Love to do||–|
|Net worth (approx.)||$1 Million – $5 Million (Approx.)|
|Salary, Income & Earnings||–|
|Mobile or Phone Number||Not Known.|
|Home Details||Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England|
|Email Address||Not found.|