Christmas Day is, of course, the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. Isaac Newton, who was born on the same date, spent a great deal of attempting to decipher the Christian scriptures. He wrote much more about this than he did about science, and boy is it turgid stuff to read. By contrast, his scientific writings are a model of clarity, and his gifts to the world in this area include:
- His three laws of motion, which recently sufficed to put the comet lander Philae bang on target.
- His Law of Universal Gravitation, which enabled the prediction of the orbit of the comet around the Sun.
- Co-discovery of the calculus, used to calculate orbits among many other things.
- His prediction that the spinning Earth would be shaped like an oblate spheroid..
- Generalization of the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents.
- Design of the first reflecting telescope to avoid the problem of chromatic aberration common in lenses at the time.
- An empirical law of cooling that we still use.
- The notion of an ideal (Newtonian) fluid e.g. slowly flowing water in a wide tube, rather than the very non-Newtonian tomato sauce (“Shake, shake the tomato sauce bottle / First none’ll come, and then a lot’ll”).
- His theory of colour, subject of our very first post.
Happy Christmas, Isaac!