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What Did Isaac Newton Invent?
Differential and Integral Calculus, Universal Gravitation, Telescope, White Light Composition
Hands On Activities: Mathematics, Mechanics, Astronomy and Optics Science Fair Projects and Experiments

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  • In Mathematics

    Newton statue on display at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History
    Newton statue on display at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History
    Newton laid the foundations for differential and integral calculus, several years before its independent discovery by Leibniz. The 'method of fluxions', as he termed it, was based on his crucial insight that the integration of a function is merely the inverse procedure to differentiating it. Taking differentiation as the basic operation, Newton produced simple analytical methods that unified many separate techniques previously developed to solve apparently unrelated problems such as finding areas, tangents, the lengths of curves and the maxima and minima of functions.

    Mathematics fair projects links:
    Mathematics Science Fair Projects and Experiments

    In Mechanics and Gravitation

    Newton's own copy of his Principia
    Newton's own copy of his Principia, with hand-written corrections for the second edition

    In 1687 Newton summarized his discoveries in terrestrial and celestial mechanics in his Principia (mathematical principles of natural philosophy), one of the greatest milestones in the history of science. In it he showed how his principle of universal gravitation provided an explanation both of falling bodies on the earth and of the motions of planets, comets, and other bodies in the heavens.

    In his Principia Newton explained a wide range of previously unrelated phenomena: the eccentric orbits of comets, the tides and their variations, the precession of the Earth's axis, and motion of the Moon as perturbed by the gravity of the Sun. This work made Newton an international leader in scientific research.

    The first part of the Principia is devoted to dynamics and includes Newton's three famous laws of motion; the second part to fluid motion and other topics; and the third part to the explanation of Kepler's laws of planetary motion.

    Physics and astronomy fair projects links:
    Mechanics Science Fair Projects and Experiments
    Astronomy Science Fair Projects and Experiments
    Galileo Galilei: The Falling Bodies Experiment
    Leonardo da Vinci: The Invention of the Parachute

    In Optics

    A replica of Newton's second reflecting telescope
    A replica of Newton's second reflecting telescope that he presented to the Royal Society in 1672

    In Optics (1704), Newton observed that white light could be separated by a prism into a spectrum of different colors, each characterized by a unique refractivity, and proposed the corpuscular theory of light. Newton's views on optics were born out of the original prism experiments he performed at Cambridge. In his "experimentum crucis" (crucial experiment), Newton had proved that white light was made up of colors mixed together, and the prism merely separated them - he was the first person to understand the rainbow.

    He also observed Newton's rings, which are actually a manifestation of the wave nature of light which Newton did not believe in.

    Optics science fair projects links:
    The Discovery of the Spectrum of Light
    Optics Science Fair Projects and Experiments

    In Theology and Alchemy

    Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, by Sir Isaac Newton, 1773
    Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, by Sir Isaac Newton, 1773

    In the 1690s, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible. Henry More's belief in the Universe and rejection of Cartesian dualism may have influenced Newton's religious ideas. A manuscript he sent to John Locke in which he disputed the existence of the Trinity was never published. Later works – The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728) and Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733) – were published after his death.

    Newton devoted much of his time to the study of chemistry, a great number of his experiments still remain in manuscript.

    General Newton Links

    PhysicsQuest: Isaac Newton - Dolores Gende
    Sir Isaac Newton - St. Andrews
    Isaac Newton - Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences
    Sir Isaac Newton - BBC
    Isaac Newton - Eric Weisstein
    The Newton Project
    Physics Jokes and Newton

    Isaac Newton Books

    My Dog Kelly

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    Last updated: June 2013
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