Scientist of the Month (Newton Edition)


By Aditya Chopra


Too often it happens that scientists forget their humble beginnings in lieu of progress and advancement. So prevalent it is for us students to curse the very figures of intellect whose discoveries led our civilisation in this direction of luxury and unfortunate ignorance. In an attempt to rejuvenate the average Vasant valley student’s knowledge about the scientists whose legacies have boosted us here, the science magazine invites you to write about any scientist whose achievements, accomplishments and life you feel is compelling and interesting.


A portrait of Sir Isaac Newton, whose scientific contributions are still in use today

All great endeavours have humble beginnings. Sir Isaac Newton, a man of humble origins, is often thought to be the most gifted mathematician to walk the earth. Single handedly he has propelled almost every branch of mathematics studied in his time. He paved the foundation mathematical and physical studies for generations to come. But under this veil of achievements hid a man who remains a psychological mystery, his life and character, a mere enigma.

Born on Christmas Day in 1642, Isaac Newton was born into a farming family. His childhood was filled with bitterness from bullies in school and his mother marrying another man when his biological father died. This bitterness led to what we know to be one of the most driven and potent, yet secluded and private minds. He received his initial fame by inventing the mathematics of Calculus at the age of 23. He then went on to lay the foundation for his laws of motions, gravitation and proved that white light was made up of seven colours i.e. the visible spectrum.

Newton’s charm ends with his works. As one descends into the vault of controversy which surrounded him, it is noticeable that while Newton was highly revered, he was rarely loved. His few friends all had a scientific mind like his and their friendships too were short lived. People he worked with, like John Locke and Gottfried Leibniz ended up being accused of plagiarism and blacklisted by the scientific community which backed Newton’s high stature. His faith of Christianity didn’t conform with the churches and to maintain his high position in the Royal Academy he had to hide his views. Post 1672, he kept most of his writings confidential, lest he be exposed.

Newton died labelled an “eccentric”. Despite having accolades of the highest degree, including a knighthood, he suffered from a nervous breakdown in his middle ages and lost a lot of relationships. His eccentricity in later life has been blamed upon mercury poisoning which was a result from his alchemical endeavours.

Though not the most humble of scientists, Newton famously once said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” It is obvious where mankind is today is a result of the intellect of men greater, smarter and more dilligent than most of us. As a salute to these giants, we continue to innovate and progress, though now direction has greater importance than velocity.