The Contributions of Isaac Newton

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"Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in sight;

God said, ' let Newton be', and all was light."-- Alexander Pope

“Our society depends upon science, and yet to many of us what scientists do is a mystery” (Hall, 1992, p. XI). Sir Isaac Newton, English mathematician and physicist, was considered one of the greatest scientists in history. Without Newton’s contributions, the world would not be the same: modern technology such as computers and televisions would not exist; space and many others things would not have been explored. During his early life, Sir Isaac Newton was able to develop calculus as well as theories of natural forces and optics, based initially upon the knowledge left by his predecessors.

Born at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, where he attended school, he entered Cambridge University in 1661; he was elected a Fellow of Trinity College in 1667, and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1669. He remained at the university as a lecturer until 1696. Of these Cambridge years, in which Newton was at the height of his creative power, he singled out 1665-1666(spent largely in Lincolnshire because of plague in Cambridge) as “the prime of my age for invention”(Newton, 1687 ).

Newton’s first major contribution to our world was his original work in mathematical fluxions. He worked in mathematics his entire career; his work in fluxions was the basis for later development. He had this to say: “I invented the method of series and fluxions in the year 1665, improved them in the year 1666, and I still have in my custody several mathematical papers written in the year 1664, 1665, 1666, some of which happen to be dated” (as cited in North, 1967, p. 11). The method of fluxions was used in mathematical problems dealing with quantities that changed (or “flowed” as Newton often said) continuously. Newton developed his methods in connection with some problems in geometry – such as the problem of determining tangents to curved lines and the problem of finding the area bounded by a curve.

The subject grew into what is now known as differential and integral calculus (Westfall, 1993).Based on his earlier work in fluxions, was development of calculus. “One of the greatest contributions to modern mathematics, science, and engineering was the invention of calculus near the end of the 17th century,” says The New Book of Popular Science (Grolier, 2000). Without the invention of calculus, many technological accomplishments, such as landing on the moon, would have very been difficult.

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