In 1664, as The Great Plague swept through London in waves of fatalities, one man returned to his hometown in the country, shielding himself from the epidemic and formulating the biggest theories of physics in his backyard. Supposedly, an apple fell onto his head and he wondered why. Could there be imaginary threads of force binding every piece of matter in this universe? The answer is yes. This ‘gravitational’ force ties us to this planet and the planets to their orbits around the sun, and binds this cosmos together.
Abandoned by his mother at a very young age, Isaac Newton was cared for by his grandparents who educated him and recognized his interests in the academics. He went on to study Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, where he didn’t excel but obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree. This is attributed to the fact that he read heavily from modern philosophers during the time in addition to balancing a part-time job to supplement his education.
When The Great Plague came to Cambridge, universities were forced to shut down and Isaac Newton retired back to Woolsthorpe manor and studied and carried out research in a variety of topics, independently. In these 18 months, he founded calculus, the theory of light, and his theories of motion. These breakthroughs remained unpublished for decades.
After returning to University and achieving a Master of Arts degree – Isaac Newton became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Among his first lectures, he demonstrated a reflecting telescope of his design which attracted the interest of the Royal Society. He became a fellow of the same in 1672 and published his initial notes on optics that claimed that light was made up of particles rather than waves. Unable to handle the criticism his notes received, he had a nervous breakdown and isolated himself completely.
In 1684, Edmond Halley visited Isaac Newton and persuaded him to mathematically derive the theory of gravitation, offering to fund his research. This led to the publishing of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematicia (or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) in 1687. Written in Latin, this book came to be considered one of the most influential books of the scientific world. It laid out his famous three laws of motion: a body at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by an external force; force is mass times acceleration; and every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Along with these theories, he derived the equation for gravitational force and successfully explained planetary motion. And he used his theories of calculus to accomplish this, filling the gaps that remained in physics. Years later, he also published Opticks, dealing with his theory of light. It is no understatement to say that he revolutionized science. In addition to this, he also studied alchemy heavily and carried out independent research in the same. He is considered one of the last alchemists.
Although his life spiraled into frequent episodes of depression and aggression and he became tyrannical due to his new found power, he delved into the world of science and unearthed secrets of this universe. Secrets that got us a step further towards knowing everything, and knowing nothing.