(1642 - 1727)
“I Contrive No Hypotheses”

Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist and mathematician, and the greatest scientist of his era.  Refusing to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a farmer, Newton went up to Cambridge University in 1661 where he studied mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy.  He had an enforced furlough from his academic life when the Great Plague swept through England in 1665 and closed the universities.  However this gave him the time to develop his nascent theories on gravity and calculus. He returned to Cambridge in 1667, became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1672 and in 1687, with the support of his friend the astronomer Edmond Halley, he published 'Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica', a book which marked the epoch of a great revolution in physics.  In it Newton “spread the light of mathematics on a science which up to then had remained in the darkness of conjectures and hypotheses” [Clairaut].   He was elected present of the Royal Society in 1703 and knighted in 1705.  He died on 31 March 1727 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, but he will always be remembered for the Principia which “produced a general revolution in human thought, equalled perhaps only by that following Darwin’s Origin of Species" (PMM)


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