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The Restless universe
Introduction to The restless Universe

1 The lawful Universe

2 The clockwork Universe

3 The irreversible Universe

4 The intangible Universe

5 The uncertain Universe

6 Closing items

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Other titles in the Physical World series

Describing motion

Predicting motion

Classical physics of matter

Static fields and potentials

Dynamic fields and waves

Quantum physics: an introduction

Quantum physics of matter

Featured Physicists

Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Part 1 of 2 | Part 2

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figure1.6, Isaac Newton
Figure 1.6 Isaac Newton
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Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day 1642 at Woolsthorp in Lincolnshire, England. His father had died a few months before the birth and Newton himself was born so prematurely that it was thought he might not survive. Newton was partly brought up by his grandmother, and seems not to have had a close relationship with his mother. He exhibited no great talent at school, but managed to avoid the task of managing his mother's farmlands and became instead an undergraduate at Trinity College in the University of Cambridge.

 An orrery (a mechanical model of the Solar System) Figure 1.7 Woolsthorp Manor - Newton's birthplace.
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As a student Newton read the works of Aristotle and was taught mathematics, as was customary, but he also taught himself physics and thus became acquainted with the works of Galileo and Kepler, amongst others. He graduated in 1665, by which time he had already started to break new ground in mathematics. Due to an outbreak of plague, the University of Cambridge was closed for much of the next two years and Newton spent most of his time back at Woolsthorp. It was during this period that he made many of his greatest breakthroughs, or at least laid their foundations. Over an eighteen month period he:
made fundamental advances in mathematics (essentially creating the subject of calculus, which has become a major part of the language of physics);

used a glass prism to demonstrate that white light is actually a mixture of colours;

began to consider the possibility that gravity, which obviously influenced bodies close to the Earth, might be a universal phenomenon holding the Moon in its orbit around the Earth and the Earth in its orbit around the Sun.

Following the reopening of the University, Newton returned to Trinity College where he became a Fellow in 1667. Two years later, still only 26, he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics on the recommendation of his predecessor, Isaac Barrow.
Continue on to Newton, part 2 of 2

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Index

S207 The Physical World
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