Gravity's Rainbow: Sir Isaac Newton's Many Great Achievements
15 June, 2016 History James Burt
Developing calculus, discovering the three laws of motion, and inventing the telescope… it’s more than most people can do in a lifetime; unless you’re great British scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Over his eighty-year life, he achieved many great accomplishments that scientists today envy.
Not only did Newton define many scientific concepts that are used in the modern world, he provided insight into mathematics and technical language. Even over four hundred years later, people still revel in the accomplishments of the man that discovered gravity.
PREFERRED READING LIST
Students, especially English language students, often have difficulty enjoying reading. What they often have to do is begin reading what they like, just as Newton did. A solitary child whose father died early, Newton discovered reading at a young age. While not overly interested in literature or poetry, Newton devoured technical literature. This no doubt influenced his appreciation of science and his ability to write his many theories down later.
PROSE FROM THE PLAGUE
After Newton completed his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge University, in August 1665, he wound up back at his family home in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire just as the Great Plague hit. As the dangerous bubonic plague began its epidemic spread, it forced Newton to stay at his home to keep himself safe.
This isolating period is credited as one of Newton’s most productive, during which he developed his first ideas on calculus and gravity, that he continued after the plague period subsided.
SEEING CLEARLY NOW
If you have ever seen the beautiful image of a prism splitting white light into its ‘rainbow’ colour components, or looked at the planets through a telescope, you’re seeing two of Newton’s key accomplishments.
Newton’s studies in optics included developing the first telescope made of mirrors. He built on some of the earliest theories of light physics, experimenting with using two prisms to first refract and then recombine light, theories that were later used in laser technology. This also served to further Newton’s interest in alchemy.
DEFENDING HIS THESIS
While Newton documented all of his discoveries, he was often under scrutiny for his ideas, from the Royal Society and also German contemporary Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who claimed calculus as his own invention. Newton often reacted badly, growing insular and arguing with his intellectual peers.
This is a good note for English language students: no matter how great your ideas are in a presentation in English, be prepared to answer questions and articulate your ideas clearly.
CREATING THE FANTASY
You’ve likely heard the story of Newton coming up with his theories of gravity and motion from sitting in an orchard when a falling apple hits him on the head, instigating his later profound ideas. This has been used in textbooks, comics, and in television commercials, as a comedic way to inspire students in science.
The truth about this is that while a good story, it’s like Newton’s telescope: a great invention! Newton’s own niece used to hear the story from him once he reached his later years. Many have noted that Newton was equally as good at telling stories as he was making scientific discoveries.
If you’re like Newton and have great ideas but need help to express them, The Language Gallery can help you refine your own ideas, presentation skills, and speaking and writing abilities. We offer GENERAL ENGLISH COURSES to GERMAN and SPANISH COURSES.