Sir Isaac Newton was a noted physicist and mathematician from England. He was born in a hamlet named Woolsthorpe in the countryside of Lincolnshire. As per official records, Newton was born on Christmas Day, December 25, 1642; though historians believe that his actual date of birth was January 4, 1643.
This discrepancy is owing to the fact that at that time England had not yet adopted the Gregorian calendar. Newton's father died three months before his birth. His mother's name was Hannah Ayscough. His family was into farming.
He had a turbulent childhood as his mother remarried when he was three years old and left him in the care of his grandmother. He never liked his stepfather.
Newton went to The King's School, Grantham, when he was twelve, but left his education midway and went to stay with his mother (widowed by now) at their hometown. Newton's family was very poor. For this reason, when he returned home abandoning his school studies, his mother persuaded him to take up farming. But he did not like farming.
Later, Henry Stokes who was a master at the King's School persuaded his mother to let him finish his education. She gave in and from then on, Newton went on to become a topper of his school.
Newton joined Trinity College, Cambridge in June 1661, and studied mathematics. At that time, his college curriculum was based on the ancient theories of Aristotle, but he preferred studying the works and findings of modern scientists like Galileo and Copernicus. Newton received his degree in August 1665.
Just after his graduation, the plague broke out in Cambridge, and Newton went back to his hometown and stayed there for two years. During his stay at home, Newton observed nature very closely and established his revolutionary hypotheses related to gravitation, mathematics, and optics.
During the period between 1670 and 1672, as a lecturer of optics, Newton worked on refraction of light. He conducted experiments in which a beam of white light was passed through a prism to show dispersion of white light into a spectrum.
He also showed that when the dispersed light is made to pass through a lens and another prism it would change to a white light once again.
With the help of another experiment, he demonstrated that the properties of colored light remain unchanged when they are reflected, scattered, or transmitted. He also developed the first functional reflecting telescope, also known as Newtonian telescope.
Newton resumed his work on mechanics in 1677. Based on Kepler's laws of planetary motion, he researched on gravitation and its effects on the orbits of planets. His three-volume work on this, called The Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (or the Principia as it is now known), got published on July 5, 1687.
Till date, it is considered as the best work in science. He defined a set of three physical laws of motion which came to be known as Newton's laws of motion. He explained the universal law of gravitation. He also analytically determined the speed of sound in air. The highest British honor, Knight Bachelor was conferred on him in April, 1705 by Queen Anne.
Sir Isaac Newton breathed his last on March 31, 1727. His body was buried in Westminster Abbey. At the time of his death, his half niece Catherine Barton Conduitt was by his side. Newton's contribution towards the development of modern theories of science is unparalleled. His stature as a scientist will remain undiminished for many more years to come.