Born in Woolsthorpe to a farming family in 1643 AD, at the time of his death in 1727 Sir Isaac Newton had been living with a niece near Winchester … but wealthy, famous, cantankerous, annoying, infirm, with his few friends worrying about his mental stability. Many proclaim him the greatest genius who has ever lived, though in the 20th Century Einstein would overturn most of Newton’s “laws” and make space, distance, and motion relative rather than absolute.
At the King’s School in Grantham, Isaac was introduced to the fascinating (for him) world of physics. Pulled out by his mother, the 12-year-old boy was to be made a farmer; he failed miserably. Isaac was soon sent back to King’s School to finish; in 1661, with the help of an uncle, he was accepted into a “work-study” program at the University of Cambridge. When the Great Plague ravaged England, Newton returned to his home for 18 months, during which he conceived his method of infinitesimal calculus, developed his theory of light and color, and found insights into the laws of planetary motion – eventually leading to his greatest hit, 'Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,' credited as the single most influential treatise on physics.
In the interim, Newton had gained a couple more degrees (he eventually returned to Cambridge), taken various short-term teaching positions, published his controversial (scientifically speaking) work on optics, had a couple of nervous breakdowns, and engaged in some scholarly feuds (which got quite nasty). Publication in 1687 of the 'Principia' raised Isaac to international prominence, greater public visibility, and in 1689 he was elected to represent Cambridge in Parliament, beginning an involvement in public affairs that would last until his death. Newton traded a life of scientific inquiry for one of political prestige.
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