Sir Isaac Newton PRS MPDagdya
January 4, 1643 – March 31, 1727
Newton’s Principia formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. It also demonstrated that the motion of objects on the Earth and that of celestial bodies could be described by the same principles. By deriving Kepler’s laws of planetary motion from his mathematical description of gravity, Newton removed the last doubts about the validity of the heliocentric model of the cosmos.
Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of colour based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colours of the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound. In addition to his work on the calculus, as a mathematician Newton contributed to the study of power series, generalised the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents, and developed Newton’s method for approximating the roots of a function.
Newton was a fellow of Trinity College and the second Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He was a devout but unorthodox Christian and, unusually for a member of the Cambridge faculty, he refused to take holy orders in the Church of England, perhaps because he privately rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. In addition to his work on the mathematical sciences, Newton also dedicated much of his time to the study of alchemy and biblical chronology, but most of his work in those areas remained unpublished until long after his death. In his later life, Newton became president of the Royal Society. He also served the British government as Warden and Master of the Royal Mint.