Isaac Newton is one of the most influential scientists in history. From his laws of motion to his theories on gravity, he changed the way we think about science and the world around us. Read on to learn some of the most interesting facts about Issac Newton, his life, and his work so that you can get to know this major figure a little better.
1. He was born on Christmas day, kind of
Issac Newton was born on Christmas day, 25th December 1642 according to the Julian calendar (the Old Style calendar) that was used at that time. He was born at Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a small settlement in the county of Lincolnshire (in the East Midlands of England). He was born prematurely.
According to the Gregorian calendar (the New Style calendar) that is in use today, he was born on the 4th of January 1643.
2. As a child he was semi-abandoned by his mother
His father died 3 months before he was born and his mother remarried when Issac Newton was 2-3. His mother left to live with his stepfather, leaving Issac in the care of his maternal grandmother until his stepfather died.
3. His mother wanted to make him a farmer
After his stepfather passed in 1653, his mother and his half-brother, and two half sisters reunited with the family. His mother soon had a career for Newton in mind, one of a farmer.
She saw him as a person who would manage the estate, so he was taken out of school in order to become just that. He wasn’t great at it and lucky for him (and humankind), his uncle William Ayscough, persuaded Newton’s mother that continuing education was the right step for Newton.
4. Newton newer married
Newton was never married. There is no evidence of him ever having a relationship. There are some claims he might have been engaged at one time. It is commonly believed he died a virgin, but this naturally can’t be verified.
5. He had a nervous breakdown
It is known he suffered either a nervous breakdown or suffered from depression in the period between 1692 and 1693, lasting 18 months. There are many speculations about his state of mental health throughout his life, from bipolar disorder, through episodes of psychosis to his brilliance being due to him potentially being on the autism spectrum.
6. He had a short temper
Newton was known for his short temper and outbursts of rage. He often argued with other scientists and was offended by criticism.
7. He had a diary of his own sins committed
When he was in his late teens, he kept a diary of the sins he committed. Some of the sins he scribed down were pretty innocent, from eating an apple in the church, making pies on Sunday night, and being peevish with his mother and sister…
Some of his sins were more questionable though, like punching his sister (remember, it was late teens, not childish brawling), wishing and hoping for death to some, threatening his stepfather and mother to burn them and their house, beating up a person…
8. The apple falling from the tree inspired him to formulate the theory of gravitation
The story of the apple falling from a tree, giving Issac Newton the inspiration for the theory of gravitation is probably the most well-known story as far as physics goes. It was popularised by Voltaire who even wrote it in his Essay on Epic Poetry;
“Sir Isaac Newton walking in his gardens, had the first thought of his system of gravitation, upon seeing an apple falling from a tree.”
The apple story of falling from a tree was indeed confirmed by acquaintances of Newton, however, it is (probably) a myth that the apple hit his head.
The apple tree, from which the apple has fallen, still grows in Newton’s garden in Lincolnshire.
Interested in learning more? Read these facts about gravity
9. The black death somewhat helped with his discoveries
There was an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1665-1666, and the Cambridge University, where he studied, had to close down. He was forced to return home at that time, where he was able to be in his garden and observe that legendary apple falling from a tree.
The law of gravitation wasn’t the only thing that he had developed during the time he was at home, development of theories in calculus and optics were in his repertoire as well.
10. He studied the Bible and was trying to uncover prophecies
When it comes to facts about Issac Newton, this one is not often mentioned. He studied the Bible and was trying to uncover hidden messages and prophecies within the Bible. Newton was determined to extract scientific information from the bible, one of his estimates being that the world would not end at least not before 2060 (and would probably at any time after that year). This estimate was made, to put an end to all other “end of days” guesses at that time.
11. Newton also studied alchemy
Probably one of the lesser-known facts about Issac Newton is that he also studied alchemy. He had an interest in many scientific fields and at that time, alchemy was still regarded as science. Alchemy concerned itself with the transmutation of matter, particularly turning things into gold. It is a precursor to chemistry and although it was “quack” it wasn’t a waste as numerous techniques, chemical achievements, and chemical knowledge derived from alchemy.
Like other alchemists before him, Newton too was on the search to create the Philosopher’s stone. The Philosopher’s stone was believed to be capable of transforming regular matter into gold.
12. Newton was knighted but it is unknown why
He was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705.
Some believe it was due to his political work, or political connections. He served two brief terms as a Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge.
Others believe it was due to his scientific contributions.
13. He worked in a royal mint for the last 3 decades of his life
He started working as a warden of the Royal Mint in 1696. In 1999 he became Master of the Mint.
14. He would make a great detective and a lawyer
During his time working for the Royal Mint, looking into counterfeiting was something he was very serious about.
Counterfeiting was considered high treason and it was punishable by death, however convicting criminals wasn’t an easy task. However, Newton was up to the challenge, gathering evidence by himself, and visiting bars and taverns under disguise. He cross-examined witnesses, informers, and suspects and successfully prosecuted 28 makers of counterfeit money.
15. Newton died in his sleep at the age of 84
Newton passed peacefully in his sleep on the 20th of March 1727 (Old Style calendar) / 31st of March 1727 (New Style Calendar). And this concludes this list of facts about Issac Newton.