In a wonderful display of academic magnanimity, Isaac Barrow resigned his chair in favor of Newton, recognizing that the pupil had surpassed the master, perhaps understanding that Newton had the intellect and insight that only comes around every few generations.
Barrow circulated many of Newton’s papers in the right academic circles and ensured that his work was taken seriously.
As a child, he displayed an aptitude for mechanics, constantly tinkering and creating machines and devices, and constructing elaborate windmills, sundials and waterclocks.
This practical side would influence his later scientific work in physics and alchemy as he voraciously devoured knowledge.
While most of us remember Newton as the discoverer of gravity, his research included mathematics, optics and philosophy in a revisiting of the great polymaths of old, a body of research that led him to create his great opus.
Isaac Newton really was a man who sprang from humble beginnings, as a child of an illiterate farmer, who died three months before Newton was born, but his inborn intelligence and intuition would soon see him rise out of this way of life.Upon asking Newton for his insights, Halley found that the scholar had already proved this, so Newton set about writing the proofs, giving a series of lectures and expanding them into his notable Newton’s life then took a strange turn into politics: In 1689, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Cambridge University and he was employed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1695, as a warden responsible for prosecuting coin clippers and counterfeiters, and pursuing other financial fraudsters.Excelling at this task, Newton then became the Master of the Royal Mint, a position that he held until his death.However, during this shift in thought, one of the largest in human history, Newton followed on from Aristotle, Avicenna, Galileo, and Francis Bacon in shaping the scientific method and creating a model that dictated how the universe worked.This physical model would survive until the coming of Poincare, Einstein and General Relativity, and Newton’s methods are still widely used and are taught in schools around the world.His Mastership of the Mint was, by no means, a full-time position and his thoroughness and efficiency meant that he had plenty of free time for his academic pursuits, returning to his work on mathematics.Amongst a raft of papers, he produced further work on optics, new and updated versions of the principia, and a few other books, the .During his school years, he showed inquisitiveness and a thirst for learning, burying himself in his books and neglecting his duties on the family farm.His potential may have been wasted had his mother had her way and insisted on him becoming a member of the noble Lincolnshire farming community, but his Cambridge-educated uncle had different ideas and saw a great deal of untapped intellectual potential in the boy.Even here, fate was to take its course: During the course of his degree, the infamous Black Death sweeping through England meant that Newton had to return home for a year, due to closure of the university until 1667.It was here that he enjoyed a year of reflection and putting what he learned into practice, making his famous breakthrough when he discovered that white light was made up of many colors.