When Newton was not yet twenty-five years old, he formulated calculus, hit upon the idea of gravity, and discovered that white light was made up of all the colors of the spectrum. By 1678, Newton designed a telescope to study the movement of the planets and published Principia , a milestone in the history of science, which set forth his famous laws of motion and universal gravitation. Newton’s long-time research on calculus, finally made public in 1704, triggered a heated controversy as European scientists accused him of plagiarizing the work of the German scientist Gottfried Leibniz.
In this third volume in the acclaimed Ackroyd’s Brief Lives series, bestselling author Peter Ackroyd provides an engaging portrait of Isaac Newton, illuminating what we think we know about him and describing his seminal contributions to science and mathematics.
A man of wide and eclectic interests, Newton blurred the borders between natural philosophy and speculation: he was as passionate about astrology as astronomy and dabbled in alchemy, while his religious faith was never undermined by his determination to interpret a modern universe as a mathematical universe.
By brining vividly to life a somewhat puritanical man whose desire to experiment and explore bordered on the obsessive, Peter Ackroyd demonstrates the unique brilliance of Newton’s perceptions, which changed our understanding of the world.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Newton|
|Release Date: 04-15-2008|
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|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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A Blessed Boy
Isaac Newton, the man who more than any other has shaped modern perceptions of the world, was born at 2 a.m. on the morning of Christmas Day, 1642, outside an obscure village in Lincolnshire from a family of undistinguished yeoman stock. He was a premature and sickly infant. Two women from the household were sent to collect certain items for the child but "they sate down on a stile by the way & said there was no occasion for making haste for they were sure the child would be dead before they could get back." At a later date Newton informed a relative that "he had been told that when he was born he was so little they could put him into a quart pot & so weakly that he was forced to have a bolster all round his neck to keep it on his shoulders."
Yet the omens were good. A birth on Christmas Day, with its obvious connection to the Saviour, was considered to be blessed. Such a birthday was deemed to be the harbinger of great success in the world. Isaac Newton was an only child. His father had died four months before the son was born, and so the omens were good in another sense: a posthumous child was commonly believed to be the recipient of good fortune. In his adult life Newton considered himself to be unique among men, and the circumstances of his arrival in the world must have encouraged that notion. His survival was considered by him to be a miracle, a harbinger of the other miracles he would perform.
He was born in a small house in the manor of Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth. An eighteenth-century drawing shows it to be a solid if undistinguished two-storey house of the English type. The drawing also contai