Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sir Isaac Newton and the famous Principia

Sir Isaac Newton
(1642 - 1727)
On July 5, 1687, Sir Isaac Newton published his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (in Latin). It is to be considered as the most influential work of Sir Isaac Newton and as one of the greatest scientific works of all time.

The original impulse to work on the Principia gave Edmund Halley, the English scientist known for his calculations on the orbits of comets and for being the second Astronomer Royal in Britain. In 1684, Newton send him the treatise On the motion of bodies in an orbit which contained the derivation of Kepler's laws and was lectured at the Royal Society by Halley. After gaining interest and respect by the Society, Newton was convinced to publish his work and was supported by the former Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed though receiving data from observations of the planets. Edmond Halley presented the final version of the Principia to the Royal Society in June of 1686, impressed by Newton's work, the Society pledged for a quick release of the writings. Still Halley had to pay for the publishing costs, since the budget was completely consumed by Willughby's work 'De Historia Piscium' (does anyone remember this book?).

In his work, Newton combined Galileo Galilei's theories on acceleration and Kepler's laws to the theory of gravitation, which was the foundation of classical mechanics. Also he was able to influence the later studies of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity through introducing the concepts of absolute time and space as well as action at a distance [1]. The entire writing was published in three books. The first two books are rather mathematical, containing the derivations of Newton's laws of motion and the motion of objects in viscous fluids. The third book was written with the intention of making these mathematical theories understandable for the masses through explaining their application on actual movements of celestial bodies.

Next to the Pricipia, Newton was also active in the field of optics, whereof he gave lectures in the 1670's. He published his theory of colour and created the Newtonian telescope based on a mirror optics. Newton also completed notable works in the field of religion. He dealt with trying to interpret the Bible literally and saw in God a creature, whose existence could not be disproved, and a masterful creator. Nevertheless Newton was not known for being an orthodox Christian, even though he had grown up in an Anglican family.

At yovisto you might learn more about Isaac Newton's laws of physics in the famous MIT lecture of Prof. Walter Lewin on classical mechanics and Newton's laws.

Further Reading:

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