January 4, 2010 brings about Sir Isaac Newton’s 367th birthday. He is perhaps remembered most prominently for the story of his apple-inspired gravitation theory; Newton often reminisced that the theory happened upon him one day as he watched an apple falling from a tree. This, however, was only one of many theories this influential scientist formulated. So what else is Sir Isaac Newton responsible for?
Not many are aware that Newton, in a sense, laid down the groundwork for integral and differential calculus (sorry, students). His discovery preceded by several years the similar discovery by Gottfried Leibniz, who developed the theories independently of Newton. By applying differentiation as the basic operation, Sir Isaac Newton developed simple means to unify then-extant techniques to solve seemingly unrelated problems.
Of course, as many know, Newton was one of the forefathers of terrestrial and celestial mechanics. His production of Principia, outlining in detail many of his discoveries and theories, is to this day considered to be one of the defining moments of what modern science has become. In this work, Newton included descriptions of various phenomenon previously unaddressed, such as the precessional nature of the Earth’s axis, the cause of tides (gravity), and, of course, his famous three laws of motion.
Science aside, Sir Isaac Newton also focused his insights on religion and even alchemy. He wrote several religious tracts that addressed literal interpretations of the Bible, and was likely seen in his time as a radical (he was even accused of being a Rosicrucian). His interest in the heretical field of alchemy likely didn’t help matters any.
So on this day, take some time to drop something (or maybe play around with calculus) to pay respect to this great forefather of modern science.