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Isaac Newton

On Christmas day 1642, in the manor house of Woolsthorpe, a weak child was born and christened Isaac. He was to become the most influential scientist of the next 250 years. Isaac Newton discovered the laws that explained all phenomena known at the time, form the motion of the stars to the behavior of dust particles. It was his extremely successful model that lead people to believe that humanity was on the verge of understanding the whole of Nature.

Newton's life can be divided into three quite distinct periods. The first is his boyhood days from 1642 up 1665 when the Plague forced him to leave Cambridge. The second period from 1665 to 1687 was the highly productive period in which he became Lucasian professor at Cambridge. The third period (nearly as long as the other two combined) saw Newton as a highly paid government official in London with little further interest in science and mathematics.

I will talk about Newton quite a bit because his view of the world together with the mathematical formalism he developed lasted for 200 years: the first experimental results incompatible with it were obtained at the end of the XIX-th century and the whole structure was shown not to be fundamentally correct by 1925. One nonetheless should be aware of the fact that, while not perfectly correct, the results using the Newtonian are exceedingly accurate in all every-day applications. Newton's theory is not ``wrong'' it's just that it has a limited range of validity.




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next up previous contents
Next: Mechanics. Up: Galileo and Newton Previous: Galileo and the Inquisition
Jose Wudka
9/24/1998