science: The Impact of Sir Isaac Newton

The Impact of Sir Isaac Newton

The greatest figure of the scientific revolution, Sir Isaac Newton, was a fellow of the Royal Society of England. To earlier discoveries in mechanics and astronomy he added many of his own and combined them in a single system for describing the workings of the universe; the system is based on the concept of gravitation and uses a new branch of mathematics, the calculus, that he invented for the purpose. All of this was set forth in his Philosophical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), the publication of which marked the beginning of the modern period of mechanics and astronomy. Newton also discovered that white light can be separated into a spectrum of colors, and he theorized that light is composed of tiny particles, or corpuscles, whose behavior can be described by the laws of mechanics. A rival theory, holding that light is composed of waves, was proposed by Huygens about the same time. However, Newton's influence was so great and the acceptance of the mechanistic philosophy of Descartes and others so widespread that the corpuscular philosophy was the dominant one for more than a century.

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