The Contributions of Isaac Newton

The Contributions of Isaac Newton

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Isaac Newton was born in 1643 in the town of Woolsthorpe, England. As a child and young adult, Newton showed signs of brilliance by inventing many things, such as a windmill powered by a treadmill run by a mouse. When Newton was 17 his mother called him from his studies in a neighboring town to come help on the family farm back in Woolsthorpe. After Newton proved himself to be an awful farmer, he returned to his studies and soon entered a University in Cambridge. It was here that he took a serious interest in science. After four years of study at Cambridge, he was forced to return home after the University shut down due to the plague. Although Newton made great contributions to natural philosophy while at Cambridge, it was in these two years home that Newton was most productive, as he gave rise to many new theories about math such as the creation of calculus, and it was also during this time that he theorized new ideas about gravity.

Newton had been interested in math his entire life, and at the age of 24 he made his first major contribution to society. “ Newton began to treat the areas under curves kinetically, as areas swept out by a moving line. From the idea of motion he derived the term 'fluxional', to describe this method, something we now call calculus.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/newton_isaac.shtml)

With his new methods, Newton was able to calculate the area inside a shape with curved sides, and to calculate the rate of change of one thing with respect to another. Newton’s discovery left the mathematical world in awe as he stunned mathematicians with his new theories and methods.

With his mathematical accomplishments under this belt, Newton took an interest in motion and what forces impact it. After studying a book by Galileo on how things fell to earth, and also studying work by Johannes Kepler, who taught how planets circle the sun, Newton starting to question what kept planets in orbit, or more specifically, what kept the moon from crashing with the earth or the sun? Although many people say that his questions were answered while sitting under an apple tree and having an apple fall on his head. “This alleged accident supposedly prompted him to imagine that perhaps all objects in the Universe were attracted to each other in the same way the apple was attracted to Earth.

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” (Serway) Sadly, it wasn’t this simple for Newton to come up with a new theory, which we now know as the Law of Universal Gravitation. Newton concluded that the same force of attraction that causes the Moon to follow its path around the Earth also causes an apple to fall from a tree.

“ Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation states that every particle in the Universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”(Serway) The picture below illustrates the Law of Universal Gravitation. "Newton concluded that the centripetal force of the Moon or of any planet must decrease as the inverse square of its distance from the center of its motion. For example, if the distance is doubled, the force becomes one-fourth as much."( http://euler.ciens.ucv.ve/English/mathematics/newton.html)

Newton not only came up with the Law of Universal Gravitation, he also developed the three laws of motion. The four laws were all introduced and explained in Principia Mathematica, a book he wrote in 1687, which is considered one of the greatest scientific books ever written.

Newton ’s First Law of Motion: A body at rest remains at rest or a body in motion remains in motion unless acted on by an external force.

Newton ’s Second Law of Motion: When viewed from an inertial reference frame, the acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force action on it and inversely proportional to its mass. In mathematical terms: ∑ F=ma where ∑ F is the net force acting on an object, ‘m’ is the mass of an object, and ‘a’ is the acceleration of an object.

Newton ’s Third Law of Motion: For every action force there is an equal and opposite reaction force.

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