Sir Isaac Newton

When deciding on the list of the greatest mathematicians in history, one name that is sure to come up is Isaac Newton. Newton made several important discoveries in the fields of mathematics and physical science, and in doing so changed the direction is which the sciences of dynamics, optics and mathematics were all going at the time.

Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642, according to the Julian calendar being used at the time (according to our current Gregorian calendar, the date was January 4, 1643), in Woolsthorpe, England. He enrolled at Trinity College, at Cambridge University, in 1661, and received his bachelor's degree in 1665. He then returned for his master's degree, after taking a two-year leave because of the plague, and ignored the established curriculum in order to follow on his interests, specifically math and natural science.

Newton's single most important idea in mathematics was come across when studying the methods used to calculate the areas occupied by curves. He realized that the operation to find this area and that to draw tangents to curves were inverses, and by joining them using the fluxional method, he developed the branch of mathematics called Calculus.

Newton, however, was fearful of criticism, and so kept his discovery to himself, until the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz arrived at and announced the same method, and coined the term "differential calculus" to describe his concept. In 1704, Newton published an exposition of his own, detailing his own studies of calculus.

Newton used many of his findings in mathematics to pursue his interest in physical science. His greatest contributions to this field were his three laws of motion. He applied these laws to Kepler's law of orbital motion to develop the law of universal gravitation, perhaps Newton's most well known discovery, which presents the idea that all bodies in space are affected by gravity.

Isaac Newton died in 1727, but without him modern mathematics and sciences would be very different from what we know. He is responsible for some of the most important ideas in history, despite being the bane of high school and college students everywhere.

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