Isaac Newton Essay

I am Sir Isaac Newton. I am a mathematician and physicist, and one of the foremost scientific intellects of all time. I was born at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, in 1642. I entered Cambridge University in 1661; then was elected at Fellow of Trinity College in 1667, then Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1669. I remained at the university, lecturing in most years, until 1696. Of these Cambridge years, in which I was at the height of my creative power, I singled out 1665-1666 as the prime of my age for invention.

I learned geometry at school, even though I always spoke of myself as self-taught. I advanced through studying the writings of William Oughtred and John Wallis, and of Descartes. Newton made contributions to all branches of mathematics studied, but I’m especially famous for my solutions to the contemporary problems in analytical geometry of drawing tangents to curves (differentiation) and defining areas bounded by curves (integration).

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Not only did I discover that these problems were inverse to each other, but I discovered general methods of resolving problems of curvature, embraced in my “method of fluxions” and “inverse method of fluxions”, respectively equivalent to Leibniz’s later differential and integral calculus. I used the term “fluxion” (from Latin meaning “flow”) because I imagined a quantity “flowing” from one magnitude to another. Fluxions were expressed algebraically, as Leibniz’s differentials were, but I made extensive use of analogous geometrical arguments.

Later in life, I expressed regret for the algebraic style of recent mathematical progress, preferring the geometrical method of the Classical Greeks, which I regard as clearer and more rigorous. My work on pure mathematics was virtually hidden from all but my correspondents until 1704, when I published, with Opticks, a tract on the quadrature of curves (integration) and another on the classification of the cubic curves. The Calculus Priority DisputeI had the essence of the methods of fluxions by 1666.

The first to become known, privately, to other mathematicians, in 1668, was his method of integration by infinite series. In Paris in 1675 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz independently evolved the first ideas of his differential calculus, outlined to me in 1677. I had already described some of my mathematical discoveries to Leibniz, not including my method of fluxions. In the 1690s my friends proclaimed the priority of my methods of fluxions. Supporters of Leibniz asserted that he had communicated the differential method to me, although Leibniz had claimed no such thing.

Newtonians then asserted, rightly, that Leibniz had seen papers of mine during a London visit in 1676; in reality, Leibniz had taken no notice of material on fluxions. A violent dispute sprang up, part public, part private, extended by Leibniz to attacks on my theory of gravitation and my ideas about God and creation; it was not ended even by Leibniz’s death in 1716. The dispute delayed the reception of Newtonian science on the Continent, and dissuaded British mathematicians from sharing the researches of Continental colleagues for a century. I died in 1727 at the age of 85