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Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727)
Photo: German Museum, Munich

Isaac Newton was born in 1643, in Woolsthorp, Lincolnshire. His father, a landowner, had died two months prior to his birth. His mother remarried after three years to a minister named Smith, who did not want to accept the young Newton as a member of his household. He therefore spent the eight years until Smith died under the care of his grandmother, whereupon his mother then again moved back to the original family home. The loss of his father and early separation from his mother led to Newton developing a strongly neurotic character.

Newton first attended school in Grantham, later proceeding to Trinity College in Cambridge. Only with the completion of scholarship examinations - which in contrast to popular opinion Newton had to work hard for - could he become financially independent. Due to his form of the infinitesimal calculation work, he gained the post of 'Minor Fellow' in 1665 and in 1669 he took over the chair for mathematics. He published the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687. Newton was made president of the Royal Society in 1703, and ennobled in 1705 by Queen Anne. He passed away in March 1727.

The mathematician Newton's most prominent work was his devising of infinitesimal calculus. He introduced, as a derivative, the abbreviation of a dot over a letter ('dot notation'), calling it the 'Fluente'. In 1666, he defined the main clause, according to which, integration meant reversal of the differentiation. Furthermore, he concerned himself with series expansions, convergence criteria, the computation of logarithms, as well as many other areas. In addition, Newton grappled with chemistry. From 1670 onwards, he concerned himself mainly with these topics. Further areas of research were the philosophy of nature and the nature of light.

Last Update: 2009-06-21