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C. In many ways. Newton's ideas fostered the development of social sciences.1987 11 . that a stone falls because its "nature" necessitates that it move toward the center of the universe. With it. And the Principia has influenced not only science but Western culture in general. AnooMDCLXXXVII.The in - Edmund Halley's preface to Newton's Principia Science is a search for the essence of everything. This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Principia's publication. such as Galileo.e ac Typis Jofephi Strcater. o Juffu SocietatisRegi. Principia. If there is one person whose work embodies the spirit and remarkable products of this pursuit. Wilczek at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara. "Newton was no mere disciple. slowly moving physical world). Holland and elsewhere. P E P Y S. for the fundamental laws that govern the universe. NE WTO N. the publication of hi the Prinafipa legend of Isaac By STEFI WEISBURD Thenye who now on heavenlynectarfare. D. Mathefcos Profeffore Lucafiano.. His Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy).. These activities. of Thefrontispiece Newton's JULY 4. commonly known as the Principia. "The NewUnlocked hiddentreasures Truth: the of tonian revolution . Profiat apud plures Bibliopolas. may well be the most important document in the history of science. is hosting a special exhibit on Newton and the Principia.) D O 0 IMP RIMA S. While Einstein's relativity theories and quantum mechanics have shown the limits of Newton's work (applicable only to the macroscopic. Coll. for example. it is Isaac Newton. Trin. The revolutionary power of the Principia and other Newtonian works is felt to this day: His celestial mechanics guide the paths of satellites and spacecraft. Tistorians are fond of saying that Newton was the culmination of the 17th-century scientific revolution. Calif. the Principia is a blueprint for modern physical science. scientists today are as much in awe of PHILOSOPHIAE NAT U R ALLI S Newton's accomplishments as Edmund Halley and others were while Newton lived. Tel Aviv. they played cen- Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press). Oxford. L O N DIN I. To celebrate his genius. In addition. In contrast. 7o/ii TUR S E S.forhe authors of new governments. remains one of the So richlythroughhis mindhad Phoebuscast most profound revolutions in the history Theradianceof his own divinity of human thought. were moving away from the Aristotelian world view. Cantab. Aristotelians believed. Newton's predecessors. & SocietatisRegalis Sodali. scientists and historians are gathering at a number of commemorative symposia planned for this year in Washington. says physicist Frank A. s686. Soc..Soc. his genius H PRINCI MATHE 7 PIA MATICA- Autore S.. four commemorative stamps have been issued in Newton's honor. but a celebration of [his] whole scientific world view and method that has led to such enormous insights" long after his death. . And in Britain.. in which the behavior of objects is dictated by the "qualities" they possess.C.to the Musesdear. Bernard Nearerthe gods no mortalmay approach Cohenin Revolution Science(1985. P R 5. But. the emerging view during the scientific revolution was more clearly rooted in the underlying forces or laws that can be expressed mathematically Newton acknowledged that he stood "on the shoulders of Giants" who developed this approach. his numerical methods are used in computers and his mathematics and approach to solving many physical problems remain as vital today as in his time. Newton created a mathematical framework for physics and conceived basic laws of motion and of universal gravitation that unify a diverse array of phenomena both in the heavens and on earth. his reflecting telescope is enabling astronomers to study recently discovered supernovas. curator of the Smithsonian exhibit. D.Celebratin Newton The 300 legacy and after years Newton live on masterpiece. are "not only a celebration of Newton." writes I. ter stage during the Age of Reason and Comecelebratewithme in song the name they inspired the French and American OfNewton. Reg. Kepler and Hooke. writes Paul Theerman. or that planets travel in circular orbits because the circle is a heavenly form. the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington.
and was among the first scientists to grapple with the unavoidable problems associated with the rise of modern science in a society centered in Christianity "Itis remarkable how modernNewton's point of view was. Cambridge UniversityPress).ferentcolors that pass througha prismat ton's and was "astonished at the orig. scientists believed that observed changes in matterwere due to rearrangements of immutable particles. Proposition I of the Principia. question of whether light was a particle or a wave. Westfall. Althoughhe considered his optics experimentsa failurein that he was unable to develop a mathematical basis for them. which holds that particles can be created and destroyed.a Chandrasekhar.Newton was also fascinated by alchemy According to RichardS. confirmed by a French expedition to in Lapland 1736. Newton showed that the force of attraction between a planet P. however.traveling in an ellipse. who along with Cohen science historian at HarvardUniversity and others recently attended a WashingBut among those scientists who have ton-area symposium on Newton sponstudied the work firsthand.even though he had evidence for the periodicity of light and even though his own observations of light were the basis of the wave theory that prevailed for the next two centuries until the advent of quantummechanics. In of Chandrasekhar the Universityof Chi. an idea that was 1 SAA?U 1T i'WTLYN." says Wilczek.a historian at IndianaUniversityand authorof Never at fZ. He studied chemistry and heat astrophysicist Subrahmanyan and designed scientific instruments. "Every time I looked at what ike most classics in science.sored by the Universityof Marylandand mendousadmirationnotonly of Newton's the SmithsonianInstitution. and a sun S.monished by his master. He also had an intense. he ultimatelyembracedthe particle theory .. the motion of solids in resisting media and the propagation of sound waves.says Wilczek. and astonishing lightness" of Newton's proofs. Newton's crowning achievement. are now three major themes of contemporaryphysics. In this way he proved that a central gravitational force from the sun governs the paths of the planets. Newtonleft behind about a million words on the subject. Halley made his famous prediction that the comet of 1682(Halley'scomet) would inality.Descartes had the notion.there is tre. elegance returnto view in 1758. varies as the square of the distance between the two.l\ewton. for whom calculus is second nature. contains work on hydrostatics. the irregularmotion of the moon. scope and approach. says Wilczek. Newton begins a line of reasoning that shows that a body continually drawn to some center of force (S). Newton'sproofs are surprising because they are largely geometrical." says is ored than read."says Cohen. They say that Newton's proofs. Wilczeksays Newton also anticipated the concept of transformations.132 . and because matter was thought to consist of particles. will move along a curve and that a line drawn from the center of the body will sweep through equal areas in equal times. that the planets move not in a vacuum but in a sea of materialthat swirls in huge vortices. Newton did.VOL. For example.eclipsed that of any scientist of his era. for example. which the same physical laws and building blocks occur everywherein the universe." Newton'squestioning about the natureof light had been pursued. but also of how he arrived at Scientistsand historiansare also taken them. Based on Newton's work. the Principia. Today. was the applicationof his abstract mathematicallaws to the real universe. which he wrote in only 18 months. He predicted that the earth is flattened at the poles. I felt like a schoolboy adc( Newton'sPrincipia more hon. Nobel-prize-winning matics. Newton did not believe in this idea absolutely."weprobablywould have had quantum mechanics long before we in fact did. Newtonshowed that manyof the existing ideas were incorrect. 12 SCIENCE NEWS. By showing that gravitationalattraction applied equally well to an apple fallingtowardearth as to the moon orbiting our planet.differentangles. with the intellectual range of Newton's which are largely geometric constructs achievements.the carefularrangement. the Opticks R ensured a premier place in science for experimentationand greatly influenced the later study of electricity.Moreover.and they are capable of being described in the same If language.as he did not want to limit the power of God to makethe rules differentin differentareas. located at one focus of the ellipse. but private. says Westfall. says Wilczek. In addition to Newton'sthree laws of motion and universal law of gravitation. the paths of comets and the ebb and flow of the tides. Likemanyscientists of his day. he adds." according to Wilczek. He made important conpeppered with concepts of calculus. However. results. In Newton'stime and years after. says Cohen. are tributions to pure and applied matheextremely clever.his book the Opticks.the Principiacontains an understandingof the workingsof the universethat goes far beyondthatof previousworks. He had the insight to suspect that lightand matterwere unifiedin some way. Johannes Kepler had discovered that planets move in elliptical orbits. In Book I.anticipated or struggled with what . magnetism and chemistry by BenjaminFranklin and others. E A W he explained the orbits of planets. "we know that matterhas wave-likepropertiesand light has particle-likeproperties. he showed that cago says he comparedhis own proofsof white light is composed of rays of difNewton's propositionswith those of New." In its depth.interestin religiousstudies. But be- S~~~~ JIC~~~~ Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1983. Newton in expressed the ideaof uniformity. Newton struggled with the QS AA From the viewpoint of modern scientists.
" IAi/A powerfulcombinationof talent Wilczek.* entific genius."became ticularlyto the death of his fatherbefore Parliament. Chandrasekhar periments. London society. of the Mint. Newtonalso suffereda numberof nerv. then Master.AC VEffrTOAI (1642-1727) JULY4. glimpse of the carriage taking Newton to says that while he can imaginehow other rn spite of his temperamentNewton his work at the mint. he seems to have left the initial conditions. The publica.. up to God. Latin and English ton never married). and popularity of science" and rational tion fromhis motheraftershe remarried.versions of the Principiawere standard fare for students through the 19th cencally oriented scholars have attributed nomic crisis. and later. Newton may have suspected that the constituents of mattertoo could be created and destroyed." try. In 1705. president of the a potent symbol of the progress and his birth and to the child's long separa.he became importantscientists throughout history might have thought and felt. In schools. while he envisioned a clocklikeuniverse. He had heated run-ins with Robert Hooke over optics.he sent his friend John Locke a wildly written letter accusing Locke of the English government called on New. While in his epitaph on Newton. Todayscientists remainunwaveringin soned by mercuryand other toxic chemi. According to Chandrasekhar. Newton was elected Newton'sbehaviorto his childhood. especially in death in 1727. Everest. After an early entanglement with Hooke and the RoyalSociety @> he retreatedfrompubliclifeand brokeoff all intellectual correspondence.and Natures~ laws lay hid in the night: God said.Royal Society He was made Warden. which pioneered the study of light and colors and validated the e-xperimental solutions to dynamics. Ale-xander Pope was apparently "Nature to the Opticks: his words are equally appropriate been written.cause light could be made to disappear (by being absorbed in a black cloth. inspired by the Principia. To I tion of the Principia brought him This adoration continued long after his imagine being Newton. "Newton was an intense and solitary man"who abhorred criticism.thought. TiT that makesa man of such genius? IP. Some psychologi. and not only the motion and behavior of matter.of the time to solve the country's eco. 'Let Newton be!' and all was light.runningby a set of laws. says was Wilczek. says Wilczek. where he over.notes Theerman. says "Newtonhad a fantastic dedication'"he says.Cambridge University's representative in tury Newton.overthe control land'sAstronomer of astronomicaldata. such as the materialmakeupof the universe.w w- w' w w-w - I p~~~~~~~~~~~ WWbWW V ' -b @V7W and character." ous breakdowns. it did not make him a pleasant person to deal with. complicatedby his theology In the end. says Theerman. and with the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz over which of them invented calculus (historians say the two men invented calculus independently of one another). Newton's thinking on this point. he "cannot was revered in his time. A third idea of modern physics is that the materialcontent of the universe.the Principia mightneverhave approach to science. he says. peo. Sir ISd. EngRoyal. inspiring writers.1987 13 . out of his shell and urginghimto write his This stamp commemorates some problems in orbital 1704). par. His behavior in these disputes was reportedly driven by an obsessive and w0 irrationalrage.their appreciationof and wonderat Newple would stand for hours hoping for a ton's accomplishments. he was the kind of person who 0~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "wouldsit with a problem. with John Flamsteed.is governed by the physical laws.Duringone episode in 1693. for example). If it weren'tfor Halleyin 1684coaxingNewton in the Opticks (published another great work of Newtons.saw the recoining of English currency and social thinkersof the last two centuries.During the 18th century it would be akin "to someone climbing a instantfameinternationally.P- W -i-.missingmeals without even noticing.the first scientist to be knighted." Butwhile his tenacity and strong per4 sonality may have helped direct his sci. artists and Others have suggested that he was poi.ideas and to own fine editions of his tryingto entanglehimwith women(New.feiters.ton as one of the 10 leading intellectuals works. familiarize themselves with Newton's be on the top of Mt.became the scourge of London countercals during his extensive alchemicalex. Westfall notes that was fashionable for the social elite to little hill and askingwhatit mustbe liketo El shortly after the Principia's publication.