Isaac Newton.

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Publié le : 3/5/2013 -Format: Document en format HTML protégé

Isaac Newton.
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Isaac Newton.
I

INTRODUCTION

Isaac Newton (1642-1727), English physicist, mathematician, and natural philosopher, considered one of the most important scientists of all time. Newton formulated
laws of universal gravitation and motion--laws that explain how objects move on Earth as well as through the heavens (see Mechanics). He established the modern
study of optics--or the behavior of light--and built the first reflecting telescope. His mathematical insights led him to invent the area of mathematics called calculus
(which German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz also developed independently). Newton stated his ideas in several published works, two of which, Philosophiae
Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, 1687) and Opticks (1704), are considered among the greatest scientific works ever
produced. Newton's revolutionary contributions explained the workings of a large part of the physical world in mathematical terms, and they suggested that science
may provide explanations for other phenomena as well.
Newton took known facts and formed mathematical theories to explain them. He used his mathematical theories to predict the behavior of objects in different
circumstances and then compared his predictions with what he observed in experiments. Finally, Newton used his results to check--and if need be, modify--his theories
(see Deduction). He was able to unite the explanation of physical properties with the means of prediction. Newton began with the laws of motion and gravitation he
observed in nature, then used these laws to convert physics from a mere science of explanation into a general mathematical system with rules and laws. His
experiments explained the phenomena of light and color and anticipated modern developments in light theory. In addition, his invention of calculus gave science one of
its most versatile and powerful tools.

II

EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION

Newton was born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, in England. Newton's father died before his birth. When he was three years old, his mother remarried, and his maternal
grandmother then took over his upbringing. He began his schooling in neighboring towns, and at age ten was sent to the grammar school at nearby Grantham. While at
school he lived at the house of a pharmacist named Clark, from whom he may have acquired his lifelong interest in chemical operations. The young Newton seems to
have been a quiet boy who was skilled with his hands. He made sundials, model windmills, a water clock, a mechanical carriage, and flew kites with lanterns attached to
their tails. However, he was (as he recounted late in his life) very inattentive at school.
In 1656 Newton's mother, on the death of her second husband, returned to Woolsthorpe and took her son out of school in the hope of making him a farmer. Newton
showed no talent for farming, however, and according to legend he once was found under a hedge deep in study when he should have been in the market at
Grantham. Fortunately, Newton's former teacher at Grantham recognized the boy's intellectual gifts and eventually persuaded Newton's mother to allow him to prepare
for entrance to University of Cambridge. In June 1661 Trinity College at Cambridge admitted Newton as a subsizar (a student required to perform various domestic
services). His studies included arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, and, later, astronomy and optics. He probably received much inspiration at Trinity from distinguished
mathematician and theologian Isaac Barrow, who was a professor of mathematics at the college. Barrow recognized Newton's genius and did all he could to cultivate it.
Newton earned his bachelor's degree in January 1665.

III

EARLY SCIENTIFIC IDEAS

When an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1665 temporarily shut down University of Cambridge, Newton returned to Woolsthorpe, where he remained for nearly two
years. This period was an intellectually rich one for Newton. During this time, he did much scientific work in the subjects he would spend his life exploring: motion,
optics, and mathematics.
At this point, according to his own account, Newton had made great progress in what he called his mathematical "method of fluxions" (which today we call calculus). He
also recorded his first thoughts on gravitation, inspired (according to legend) by observing the fall of an apple in an orchard. According to a report of a conversation
with Newton in his old age, he said he was trying to determine what type of force could hold the Moon in its path around Earth. The fall of an apple led him to think that
the attractive gravitational force acting on the apple might be the same force acting on the Moon. Newton believed that this force, although weakened by distance, held
the Moon in its orbit.
Newton devised a numerical equation to verify his ideas about gravity. The equation is called the inverse square law of attraction, and it states that the force of gravity
(an object's pull on another object) is related to the inverse square of the distance between the two objects (that is, the number 1 divided by the distance between the
two objects times itself). Newton believed this law should apply to the Sun and the planets as well. He did not pursue the problem of the falling apple at the time,
because calculating the combined attraction of the whole Earth on a small body near its surface seemed too difficult. He reintroduced these early thoughts years later in
his more thorough work, the Principia.
Newton also began to investigate the nature of light. White light, according to the view of his time, was uniform, or homogeneous, in content. Newton's first
experiments with a prism called this view of white light into question. Passing a beam of sunlight through a prism, he observed that the beam spread out into a colored
band of light, called a spectrum. While others had undoubtedly performed similar experiments, Newton showed that the differences in color were caused by differing
degrees of a property he called refrangibility. Refrangibility is the ability of light rays to be refracted, or bent by a substance. For example, when a ray of violet light
passes through a refracting medium such as glass, it bends more than d...


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