There were many contributing factors in the outcome of Newton’ssuccess and effects on the Enlightenment.
Sir Isaac Newton is the best exampleof someone who had the worst circumstances and worked a great deal foreverything he accomplished to make the best of it. This includes his early lifedisadvantages, the years at Cambridge, and the seemingly unconquerable problemshe encountered in his late lifetime. Isaac Newton was the figurehead of theEnlightenment, and his impactful contributions range from the invention ofcalculus to his famous work PrincipiaMathematica.
Newton was born on Christmas Day in Woolsthorpe England, 1642. Oneof his earliest problems in life was that he had an incredibly low lifeexpectancy; he was the size of a large English mug (“Isaac Newton” par. 6). Newton’sfather died a few months before Sir Isaac was born; this lack in a fatherfigure ultimately led to the over-attention he received from his mother andcaused him to have a closed off personality. After a few years, Newton’s mothergot remarried, but his stepfather died too. This caused Newton’s uncle to come intotown to help out his sister and nephew. Newton was called home from school towork the family farm which put his future temporarily on hold.
At the time,this seemed like a smart and practical decision, but his uncle saw the greatpotential in his intelligent nephew and sent him back to Cambridge (Garvin par.9). This was the beginning of the many setbacks Newton experienced in hisplentiful life. The University of Cambridge was the engine that drove IsaacNewton’s train.
In the beginning, he started like many others, he fullyimmersed himself in Galileo and Aristotle’s work. This is why so many of the philosophersfrom this time period have similar views on basic concepts. Newton, the youngstudent, embarked on his journey to become a well-known philosopher and arrivedat Trinity College Cambridge on June 5, 1661. “Despite his family’s money, Newtonattended Cambridge as a subsizar sic, a type of working student” (par. 10).After a year of school, his stepfather died so he temporarily left the universityto help on the farm and pick up the slack. In 1664, a few years after hereturned to the university, he entered and won a scholarship contest whichallowed him to quit his job and attend school with no fees (par. 10).
The BlackDeath fell upon Europe the next year, which forced the university to close. Forabout half a semester Newton was once again at home, but this time it was agood thing because he continued his academics without the restrictions of theschool. He had no academic deadlines and had essentially freedom in hisstudies. This is when he finally started to break out into the famousintellectual we know; discovering his theory in light and beginning to form hislaws of motion (par.11).Isaac Newton was not only a very intelligentman, but also a very privileged, and hardworking student. This long listcontains the start of the many milestones he achieved, it’s shown on the 1780thpage in Anthony Storr’s scholarly Journal, Isaac Newton: In February 1664 he waselected scholar and took his BA in 1665.
In 1667 he became a minor fellow, in1668 an MA and Major fellow. In 1669, when still only 27, he became aLucasian professor of mathematics. Charles II provided, by letter patent, aspecial dispensation, which allowed Newton to take this chair without at thesame time taking holy orders, a step that was normally demanded of all fellows.(Storr 1780)There is a variety ofpractices Sir Isaac Newton excelled at, the first two of these fields was inAlchemy and Mathematics.
The practice of alchemy did not end up as a positiveexperience for Sir Isaac, just past the age of 50, he went mentally ill fromwhat most believe is Mercury poisoning. This was as a result of Newton possiblyattempting to expand his brain due to a silly old scientific belief. Eventhough Newton did not succeed here, he was an outstanding philosopher in thefield of Math (Isaac Newton 1). As mentioned, later on, he created a newsubject of math, which is widely applied around the globe. This eventuallyhelped shape many of our modern subjects of math including physics and apresent-day geometry. Newton was also an inventor and was involved in the fieldof astronomy. This was a very beneficial area of work for Isaac Newton becauseit tied into some of his studies and inventions such as the reflectingtelescope (Anirudh par.
6). Newton only focused on a single section in opticsbut spent a lot of time working on it. Including multiple years of work devotedto confirming and testing his theories on light and the color spectrum. This isanother area of his life with advantages and disadvantages. Isaac Newton wasvery involved in a variety of things, alchemy, math, optics, astronomy, andinventing.
Newton actually spent a few years more politically focused thanscientifically focused. He was the second scientist ever to be knighted; thisdeveloped into quite the honor because after being appointed Warden in 1696, hebecame a Master of the Royal Mint in 1700. About three years passed and Newtonwas appointed President of the Royal Society and served as a member ofParliament (Anirudh par.11). Most people completely overlook all the setbacks and problems SirIsaac Newton met in his lifetime and focus on the accomplishments. The truth is he took place in manydisagreements and had major issues in his life. The first of his disagreementswere with the philosopher Leibniz.
This was because Newton waited to publishhis creation of Calculus. The two had a big disagreement on it because Newtoncreated Calculus in 1664-6, but didn’t publish it until 1687. Meanwhile,Leibniz clearly created it years after in 1675-6 and published it in 1684.Technically the debate between the two was never settled, but Newton was givencredit since he started earlier than Leibniz. (Storr 1781).
Newton got himselfinto many quarrels with Robert Hooke, and the astronomer Flamsteed. Thedisagreement with Flamsteed was clearly just due to Newton being lazy and notgiving clear enough credit to Flamsteed’s advice on a set of astronomicalteachings; after a while, the two refused to see each other. The third ofNewton’s quarrels were with Robert Hooke, Hooke and Newton disagreed on nearlyall Newton’s discoveries. The first time, Hooke criticized his theory of lightand went to great lengths and experiments to challenge its credibility. Theconclusion was that Newton is correct because he has a clear experiment andprocedure proven to work, unlike Hooke’s empty threats (1781).The largest mountain Newton has ever climbed was in 1693 when hebecame mentally ill. The great Sir Isaac Newton had deteriorated and blockedoff every relationship in his life. It even got to the point where he wouldreport threats and conversations that never happened and went insane.
“It hasbeen suggested that Newton, who performed chemical experiments in his room, wassuffering from poisoning by mercury…” (1782) This was never confirmed becausethere are no proven records that he lost any teeth which is a side effect ofmercury poisoning. The outcome of Isaac Newton’s life is not surprising whenexamining his childhood. He was always tinkering with items and making gadgets,but also possessed a weird closed off personality (1779).Newton either discovered or helped start the path to the majorityof the concepts and tools we use in our everyday lives. One of the earliestdiscoveries Newton made was while he was at home due to the European plague.This is the discovery of gravity; this tied into his many fields of workincluding astronomy. Imagine not knowing why we don’t float into space; thiswas actually a question before the Enlightenment. “In Principia, Newtonformulated his law of universal gravitation which states that any two bodies inthe universe attract each other with a force that is directly proportional tothe product of their masses…” (Anirudh par.
3). Newton’s religious beliefs arenot often mentioned in many papers, but he did study the Bible all throughouthis lifetime. When revealing his theories on a gravitational force in PrincipiaMathematica, he made it clear to everyone that God made gravity, he justdiscovered it. In 1665, Newton made another extraordinary contribution to ourlives, he invented Calculus. This not only made it all the way into ourmodern-day universities and school systems, but was helpful to many otherscientists in the Enlightenment.Sir Isaac developed his theories on white light and the colorspectrum back at home when he discovered gravity.
Newton formed an experiment,to try to prove the current theory (at the time) of white light was wrong.”Advocates of the wave theory had previously stated that light waves are madeof white light, sic and that the colour sic spectrum that can be seen througha prism is formed because of corruption within the glass” (Klus 3). Essentiallywhat this is saying is that the more glass the light passes through, the morecorrupt it becomes (3). Newton set up two separate prisms at special angles andshot a beam of white light through the two prisms. The white light passedthrough the first prism and split into the color spectrum, but when it passedthrough the second prism it returned to its appearance of white light.
Thisallowed Newton to confirm there is no corruption involved in the creation ofthe color spectrum. Newton also later tested and found light actually acts as aparticle, a “photon.” After getting into the field of optics with white light,Newton decided to improve the telescope. He realized he could easily compact itand enlarge the image if he spent the time. After trials and errors ofdifferent lenses, he attempted to replace them with mirrors. This ended uptaking up half the space as the lenses and made the image clearer.The laws of motion are equally important as Newton’s discovery ofgravity. They describe how everything around us moves and reacts to each other.
He split the laws into 3 parts, the law of Inertia, F =MA, and Action Reaction.The law of Inertia states an object will not change its course unless affectedby an outside force. The second law talks about how the acceleration ofsomething is proportional to the force acting on it.
He sums both of these lawsup with the third one by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.This is currently used in schools around the world to teach subjects inPhysics, Earth Science, and even Newton’s brainchild, Calculus. Theseinventions and theories he formed are all intertwined, he has years of solidwork and experiments for each field of work he is in, ranging from astronomy tooptics. He reveals all this in a nice order and work he produced in Principia Mathematica.
“Newton’s contribution to Enlightenment science helped to makescience a respectable area of inquiry and removed the last pull of blasphemythat had lingered since the time of Galileo.” (Garvin par. 34) Our world wouldbe completely different if Sir Isaac Newton had not been born. He is one of themany intellectual giants that constructed one theory and it produced a whole newtopic. Newton creates this chain reaction through the enlightenment all the wayup to the present day by creating Calculus, developing a new telescope, andeven discovering gravity.
Isaac Newton is a very influential being who hascertainly left a fingerprint on our lives. Working BibliographyAnirudh. “10 MajorAccomplishments of Isaac Newton.” Learnodo Newtonic, 2 May 2016, learnodo-newtonic.com/isaac-newton-accomplishments.
Garvin, Karen S. “IsaacNewton: Figurehead of Enlightenment Science.” Academia, 28 June 2011,s3.amazonaws.
doc.”Isaac Newton.” IsaacNewton – New World Encyclopedia, New World Encyclopedia, www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Isaac_Newton.Klus, Helen. “Newton’sTheory of Light.
” The Star Garden, 6 Aug. 2017, www.thestargarden.co.uk/Newtons-theory-of-light.html.Storr, Anthony. “IsaacNewton.
“JSTOR, vol. 291, 21 Dec. 1985, pp. 1779–1784., www.jstor.org/ stable/pdf/29521701.pdf.