Alchemy - · A medieval pseudoscience that sought to find ways to
transmute base elements into valuable ones--for example, to transform
lead into gold. Alchemy was one of Newton's favorite pursuits.
Arian - · Arianism was a Christian heresy, which held that the
Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) was not an accurate description
of God, and that Jesus, while the son of God, was not equal with the
father. (The heresy took its name from its author, Arius.) Newton,
while otherwise devout, came to subscribe to Arian theology.
Calculus - · The field of mathematics dealing with the calculation
of variable quantities, such as weight, distance, or time, using
forms of algebraic notation. Work in calculus usually involves
the use of curves, calculating their slopes, and the distance under
them. Newton was one of the pioneers of calculus, which he called "fluxions,"
although he must share credit for many of his ideas with Leibniz,
who developed similar ideas independently around the same time.
Gravity - · The force of attraction between all bodies, which hold
planets in their orbits and causes objects to fall toward the earth.
In his Principia, Newton provided mathematical
proof for a theory of universal gravitation that accounts for the
fall of an apple from a tree; the orbits of planets, moons, and
comets; indeed, the behavior of all objects in the universe. Contemporaries
would call this the "fundamental law" of the universe, and it became
the centerpiece of Newtonian physics. See the SparkNote on Gravitation for
more information on the physics of gravity.
Optics - · The study of light. Newton made remarkable advances
in this field: he discovered the spectrum of color that makes up
white light; and proposed a "particle theory," holding that light
is composed of tiny particles rushing through space at extremely high
speeds. See the SparkNote on optics.
Principia Mathematica - · Newton's scientific masterpiece, published in three
volumes in 1687. In it, he offered mathematical proof of his law
of universal gravitation, and created his system of the world,
which would make him famous as the greatest mind of his age.
Puritans - · A strict Protestant branch of the Church of England,
the Puritans dominated England in the 1650s during the dictatorship
of Oliver Cromwell, imposing their harsh, Old-Testament theology
on the nation. Their rule came to an end in 1660, with the Restoration.
Royal Society - · Founded with Charles II's blessing in July of 1662,
the Royal Society was a community of scholars brought together
for the purpose of "Improving Natural Knowledge." It included,
at its inception, scientists, philosophers, and even poets. Newton became
a member in 1672, and eventually became its president in 1703,
retaining the post until his death.
The Three Laws
of Motion - · The three laws of motion are the basic principles of
Newtonian physics, as set out at the beginning of the Principia.
They are as follows:
1. Every body continues in
its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless
it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
2. The change in motion is proportional to the motive
force impressed, and is made in the direction of the straight line
in which that force is impressed.
3. To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. For
more information on Newton’s laws of motion, see the SparkNote on Newton’s Three Laws.
Glorious Revolution - · Less a revolt then a bloodless coup d'etat, the
Glorious Revolution took place in 1688-89, when Protestant English nobles
invited William of Orange, a Dutch nobleman, to travel to England
and take the throne from James II, who had been attempting to restore
Catholicism in England. James fled to France, and William, who
was married to James's daughter Anne, was crowned as William III.
Restoration - · This term refers to the return of Prince Charles, the
son of Charles I, whom Puritans had beheaded during the civil war.
After the death of the dictator Oliver Cromwell, Parliament invited
Charles to take the throne, and he landed in England in 1660 and
restored the monarchy. After years of Puritan rule, the Restoration
became famous as period of immorality and decadence--a long revelry
celebrating the end of the theocracy.
Scientific Revolution - · A somewhat general term, referring the period in the
17th century when scientific knowledge exploded in Western Europe.
There were many famous figures in this epoch (Galileo, Kepler, Harvey,
Boyle, Leibniz), but Isaac Newton was probably the most celebrated,
for his discovery of the fundamental law of the universe, the principle
of gravitation. For more information, see the SparkNote on The