From a two-pint pot

A mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, 
-William Wordsworth describing Sir Isaac Newton

Many of our greatest men and women began two steps back and kept sliding until force of will took over for fate. From his own memoirs Newton was said to be so small that he could fit into a two-pint pot. His father died four months before his birth and his step-father was as wicked as any fairy tale could provide despite being a Reverend. He hated the man and resented his mother. "Threatening my father and mother Smith to burn them and the house over them."

Sent to his grandmother's (Margery Ayscough) to live, he lived instead in his own world. A world that revolved around invention and experiment. It was said that all he wanted to do was study. His way. His love of Descartes, Copernicus and Galileo was outside of Trinity College, Cambridge's curriculum. It is amazing to think he, on his own, discovered the laws of gravity and motion. If he'd been a sociable man, this may never have happened. If his mother had had her way, the world would have been gifted with another farmer instead of a scientific genius

Newton made strides in mechanics, mathematics, thermodynamics, astronomy, optics and acoustics that changed the world.

Principia Mathematica (1687) is thought to be the single most important book in the history of science.

His quarrel with German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz regarding calculus is renowned. Newton accused Leibniz of plagiarism*. This was no small charge. At the time, Leibniz was was a political adviser to the Duke of Hanover, was consider the first true geologist and was both a logician and a metaphysician. The Royal Society was called in to moderate. Strangely, they never called on Leibniz to give his side of the story. They eventually reported that, indeed, Leibniz was a fraud and Newton was the true inventor of the Calculus. That Newton wrote the report himself may have had something to do with the outcome.

He was an unparalleled genius, had a bad temper, and was an introvert. Some think introverted to the point of his having autism. Towards the end of his life, his studies in alchemy and mysticism had his contemporaries think he may have been mad. Perhaps he still knew more than they, or we, do.

"I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people."
 - Isaac Newton

My reading of him began with the QI Book of the Dead. And will expand to James Gleick's book called, simply, Isaac Newton. A fascinating and complex man. And more is being discovered about him every day.

Hideous shoe named after him.

The Ten Brightest Stars

Rigil Kentaurus, Toliman

Note: The apparent brightness of a star depends on both its inherent (absolute) luminosity and its proximity to the observer.

* Leibniz had managed to came up with calculus independently. When Leibniz published his paper on calculus in 1684, he didn't feel the need to mention Newton.

1 comment:

Jen Jordan said...

Sister saw this post and said, "You mean I have to read stuff?"

Never. Just look at the pretty pictures.