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April 16, 1705: Queen Anne of England knights Isaac Newton

 

GregBO
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Isaac Newton, aged 63, was knighted by Queen Anne of England, on April 16, 1705, at Trinity College, Cambridge.  Newton, an English scientist & one of the most influential men of all time, was the second scientist ever to be knighted.

Newton knighted by Queen Anne. Illustration for children's history of England, late 19th or early 20th century. Signed RWM.

Newton's work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was published in 1687 and lay the groundwork for classical mechanics (The study of the motion of heavenly bodies).  His Universal gravitation and 3 laws of motion are the basis of mechanics for last 3 centuries.

Newton was the scientific figure who eradicated the last doubts about the heliocentrism and established coherency between his gravitational laws and Kepler’s laws of planetary motion.  He developed the theory of spectrum and formulated empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound.

A model of the universe which put the Sun in the center devised mathematically by Nicolaus Copernicus.  This model replaced geocentrism, which placed the Earth at the center.

In 1689, Newton became a member of the Parliament of England and many view that his knighting in 1705 as having more to do with politics, than it did with his recognition as one of the most brilliant minds of the 1600's.  Queen Anne saw Newton's political affiliation in the Whigs as a way to boost morale prior to the 1705 Parliamentary election.  The Whigs earned 49 additional seats, a 27 seat difference from the 1702 election.

Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a sophisticated theory of colour based on the observation that a prism separates white light into the colours of the visible spectrum.  His work on light was collected in his highly influential book Opticks, published in 1704.

Replica of Newton's second reflecting telescope, which he presented to the Royal Society in 1672

He also formulated an empirical law of cooling, made the first theoretical calculation of the speed of sound, and introduced the notion of a Newtonian fluid.  In addition to his work on calculus, as a mathematician Newton contributed to the study of power series, generalised the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents, developed a method for approximating the roots of a function, and classified most of the cubic plane curves. These works and others lead to his recognition as being a key figure in the scientific revolution.

From the age of about twelve until he was seventeen, Newton was educated at The King's School, Grantham, which taught Latin and Greek and probably imparted a significant foundation of mathematics.  He was removed from school and returned to Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth by October 1659.  His mother, widowed for the second time, attempted to make him a farmer, an occupation he hated.  The Master at The King's School, persuaded his mother to send him back to school.  Motivated partly by a desire for revenge against a schoolyard bully, Newton became the top-ranked student, distinguishing himself mainly by building sundials and models of windmills.

The mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange said that Newton was the greatest genius who ever lived, and once added that Newton was also "the most fortunate, for we cannot find more than once a system of the world to establish."

​"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." -Albert Pike

​"​My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.​" - Clarence Buddinton Kelland


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GregBO
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While Isaac Newton is acknowledged for this brilliance today, there was wide dispute about his achievements during his lifetime.  Although he did develop the mathematical field of calculus to help describe planetary motion, Newton's fellow mathematician and rival Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz developed his own calculus right around the same time.  Leibnitz and his colleague Johann Bernoulli certainly heard about Newton, but doubted his ability, so they devised a test.

On this day, January 29, in 1697, Isaac Newton received a copy of a mathematical challenge put out publicly for anyone to solve. The object was “To find the curve connecting two points, at different heights and not on the same vertical line, along which a body acted upon only by gravity will fall in the shortest time.”

Leibitz and Bernoulli announced the challenge in 1696; a full year before Newton received it. The original time limit of six months was extended to one year for lack of any responses. Six additional months pasted before Newton received the papers and he began working on the problem shortly after 4pm; by 4am he had the solution.

​"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." -Albert Pike

​"​My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.​" - Clarence Buddinton Kelland


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