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The discovery of the principles of the world

Celebrating Newton´s 375th birthday

The most famous scientist of all time (besides Albert Einstein) was born 375 years ago: Isaac Newton saw the light of day on 4 January 1643 in Woolsthorpe (Lincolnshire, England).

Newton was a physicist, mathematician and astronomer, but he was also a philosopher, alchemist and theologian. He can be regarded as one of the most versatile and influential men in history. His publications, especially the "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" of 1687, are among the most important works in the history of science. His research dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for centuries - until Einstein came.

Portrait of Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton, 1689 (after a painting by Godfrey Neller)

The general public today usually associates Newton with the description of gravity and the anecdote with the falling apple, which is said to have given him the idea of exploring their laws. The famous apple tree can still be seen in the garden of his birthplace Woolsthorpe Manor.

Newton returned here during the Great Plague in London in 1665/66. In these two years, the young scientist developed a new theory of light, discovered and quantified gravity, laid the foundations for the theory of mechanics and pioneered a revolutionary new approach to mathematics, the infinitesimal calculus.

Newton studied and taught at Trinity College in Cambridge, was a Member of Parliament, President of the Royal Society and Head of the Royal Mint. The Queen knighted him - as the first scientist ever! He died on 31 March 1727 as a rich and famous man - an extraordinarily successful life!

Perpetual argument over intellectual property claims

Alexander Pope drafted an inscription for Newton's tomb in Westminster Abbey, which describes his significance for the knowledge of the world:

"Nature and Nature's Laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light."

Newton himself, however, was well aware:
"What we know is a drop, what we don't know is an ocean."

But the brilliant scientist was also quite complicated in character: Newton was repeatedly involved in fierce arguments about the intellectual authorship of some of his ideas, for example with Leibnitz or Hooke. This leads to the conclusion that even the greatest minds should take care of the timely protection of their intellectual property, for example through patents.

Pictures: via Wikimedia Commons

Last updated: 23/04/18 

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