# Lecture13 - IsaacNewton , .,and

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HISTORY OF MATHEMATICS – LECTURE 13 – MONDAY 25 TH OCTOBER Isaac Newton Isaac Newton was born prematurely on Christmas Day in 1642, and was brought up by his mother after his father died before he was born. Newton did not always demonstrate his great talent as a child, and was described by teachers as “idle” and “inattentive”. However he demonstrated sufficient ability to be accepted to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1661. Newton began his rapid ascent as an undergraduate at Cambridge, and was inspired to a large degree by the arrival of Isaac Barrow (1630 1677) as chair of mathematics in 1663. Barrow was one of the leading mathematicians in England at the time, and his research on the area bounded by curves almost led to him inventing calculus before Newton (see pages 390 392), with Barrow’s tangent method strongly resembling differentiation. However the Great Plague forced Cambridge to close for much of 1665 and 1666, and while this proved to be a very productive period for Newton, during which he derived the binomial theorem for irrational exponents, Barrow was called soon afterwards by King Charles II to be his chaplain. This left a vacancy, and it was on Barrow’s recommendation that Newton became the new chair of mathematics at the age of 26. Newton’s first lectures in his new capacity were on the subject of optics, and included the result of his experiment in 1666 that showed white light to include all the colors of the spectrum by passing it through a triangular prism. This contradicted the theory of the day that white light had no color, and that colors were due to a mixture of light and darkness. Newton’s findings led him to conclude that light of differing colors moves at different speeds, given how the “rainbow” of colors produced by the prism took a rectangular form (an effect we call refraction today). Newton also invented the reflecting telescope around this time, which uses a concave mirror to concentrate the rays of light, rather than the two lenses in the telescopes of Galileo. The reflecting telescope was met with great acclaim by the members of the Royal Society when one of the first demonstrations was given, and it is still the instrument of choice for serious astronomers today. (It should be noted that Newton’s relationship with the Royal Society was not always amicable due to a long standing dispute with Robert Hooke

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## This note was uploaded on 09/22/2011 for the course MAC 2311 taught by Professor Evinson during the Spring '08 term at University of Central Florida.

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Lecture13 - IsaacNewton , .,and

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