Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) is one of the greatest minds in the history of science. A leading figure in the scientific revolution, his Principia Mathematica, which was first published in 1687, laid out the laws of motion and gravitation. Newton built the first reflecting telescope, and largely ended the debate over the heliocentric universe. He also helped develop calculus, along with Gottfried Leibnitz.
Newton attended Trinity College, Cambridge, and while still a student began formulating the basis for calculus. He was later elected a Fellow at Trinity College, where he developed advances in optics and his law of gravitation. His scientific discoveries are vast and he is largely considered to have been a genius. The story of the apple falling on his head, known to schoolchildren, is, however, apocryphal. In fact, Newton was inspired to formulate gravitation by watching an apple fall from a tree, not hitting him on the head.
Later in life, Newton served as the Master of the Royal Mint and president of the Royal Society. The Royal Society is the oldest scientific organization still in existence, formed in 1660. Newton’s ideas about the scientific and mathematical formulation of the universe were largely the basis of the Enlightenment. However, Newton also had great interest in both the Bible and alchemy, spending many years secretly studying the subject. Following his 1727 death, it was discovered that Newton had mercury poisoning, which may explain his later eccentricities.