Isaac Newton was born on Dec. 25, 1642, in Woolsthorpe, England.
His father died before he was born, and when he was only three
his mother, Hannah Newton, remarried and moved away, leaving him
to be raised by an uncle. He was sent to the local grammar school,
and for a time it was expected that he would grow up to manage
his mother's property. But he nonetheless persisted in the pursuit
of his wider interests, and after leaving the grammar school he
enrolled at Trinity College, at the University of Cambridge, in 1661.
He received his bachelor of arts in 1665, and was named a fellow
of the College two years later.

Meanwhile, in the turbulent year of 1666, while England
fought with Holland and suffered plague and a terrible fire in
London, Newton made three of his greatest discoveries. In the
field of optics, the study of light, he developed and proved his
theory that white light is composed of a mixture of other colors
of light, which, when split apart by a prism, form a band of color
called a spectrum. This was a revolutionary advance, and equally
revolutionary was his work in mathematics, where he developed a
binomial theorem and worked out a method of calculating the slope
of curves and the area under them, paving the way for the field
of math known as calculus. But his most important innovation was
the concept of gravity, the attraction between bodies in space
that holds planets, moons and comets in orbit, and draws falling
objects toward the earth. His theory of gravity, however, remained
incomplete and unverifiable; it would not be published for two
decades.

In 1669, Newton was appointed professor of mathematics
at Trinity College. In January 1672, he was elected to the Royal
Society, a loose organizations of scientists and intellectuals.
Shortly thereafter, he presented a paper detailing his discoveries
in optics, and developed a rivalry with the scientist Robert Hooke,
who harshly criticized Newton's research. This rivalry would percolate throughout
the 1670s, as Newton continued to work out the mathematics of gravity,
and would flare up in the mid 1680s, when Newton finally published
his work, some of which Hooke felt had been stolen from him. Newton's
research was organized into a three-volume book, the *Philosophiae
Naturalis Principia Mathematica* ("Mathematical Principles
of Natural Philosophy"), known to posterity as the *Principia.*
It set forth Newton's three laws of motion, and proceeded to set
forth the theory of gravitation, and back it up with rigorous mathematical
proofs. Although the theory had many detractors at first, the
scientific community would ultimately embrace it, and the Newtonian
world-view would dominate physics until the 20th century.

*Principia* made Newton an English celebrity.
He was elected to Parliament in 1691, and after surviving a nervous
breakdown in 1693, was appointed warden of the mint in 1696, and
master of the mint three years later. He was elected president
of the Royal Society in 1703, upon the death of Hooke, and was
knighted in 1705. As his fame grew, he worked to buttress his own
reputation, bringing the Society under his tight control and carrying
on a feud with the German mathematician Leibniz over the issue
of who had developed calculus first. Newton never married, and
was tremendously pious: he dedicated his later years to the interpretation
of scripture, and a mighty effort to understand the relationship
between biblical prophecy and history. He died on March 20, 1727,
and was buried with great honors in Westminster Abbey.