1. Isaac Newton (1643-1726), the English physicist, mathematician, and astronomer, was born on January 4, 1643. Although one’s birthday would seem like it would be an undisputed fact, the rest of the world understood Newton to be born on the Christmas Day of 1642. At the time, England was lagging the rest of Europe in its use of the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar which led to this contrast. Today, most scholars refer to Newton’s birthday as January 4.
2. His father, whose name was also Isaac, died three months before Newton was born. Adding to his mother’s burden, Newton was born prematurely and was not expected to live very far past his birthday.
3. His childhood was rather traumatic and left an indelible mark on his personality. At 3, his mother left him with his grandmother while she went off to marry Barnabas Smith, a successful minister. Though his mother returned to her son after Smith died, the damage had already been done. As a teenager, Newton once confessed the sin of “Threatening my father and mother Smith to burn them and the house over them.”
4. When he reached school age, Newton studied at the King’s School in Grantham. Around the age of 15, his mother pulled him out of school to help tend to their farm; however, Newton did not take to the field’s labor. His mother, now realizing that her son would not be of much help on the farm, sent him back to school to finish his education.
5. Newton’s intellectual abilities were largely overlooked during his studies. When he completed his undergraduate program at Cambridge University, Newton graduated without honors or distinctions. Although he earned a full scholarship for his graduate studies, he never held a full fellowship; he only held a minor position. Still, he persevered, and upon publishing his first major work, De Analysi, the mathematical community finally recognized him.
6. At 26, he was appointed to the prestigious position of Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge. Despite his rising influence, he displayed very little interest in teaching, and thus, his lectures were sparsely attended.
7. Newton served in Parliament for two terms. His first term was from 1689 to 1690, and his second was from 1701 to 1702. As a representative of Cambridge University, Newton contributed very little to the governmental affairs of Britain. He only spoke once, and his utterance was not a magnificent speech on the floor, but was a simple request for an usher to close a nearby window because the air was cold.
8. Newton unjustly defended his position as the inventor of calculus. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, a German mathematician, published his version of calculus years before Newton’s work. Newton had developed calculus in the 1660s but did not publish his findings. What resulted was a bitter battle between the two scholars. Leibniz presented his case to the Royal Society in 1703, but Newton was then the Society’s President and had a strong influence over its affairs. Newton assembled a supposedly independent investigative committee to confer the title of calculus’s discoverer; however, he packed the committee with his supporters. Unsurprisingly, the committee named Newton as the discoverer.
9. It has been said that Newton was inspired to study gravity after an apple fell off a tree and hit him on the head. However, this is not precisely the case. Newton was near an apple tree and observed an apple as it fell from the tree. The apple fell straight down instead of falling at an angle, which inspired him to develop the law of gravity.
10. Newton died well into his years at the age of 84 on March 20, 1727. His body lies at Westminster Abbey, the resting place of Britain’s monarchs and honored citizens such as Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking.