6 Things about Isaac Newton that Might Surprise You

Jul 1, 2022 | Articles, People, Personal Triumphs, Science

Sir Isaac Newton is one of the most famous and influential scientists of all time. His discoveries in physics completely changed the world. Nowadays, his laws of motion are used everywhere and in almost everything. Without Newton, the field of mechanics would be different.

In 1705, Queen Anne knighted Newton for his service to the world. By that point, he already had wealth after inheriting his mother’s property. In 1687, Newton published the book Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, popularly known as Principia. And in 1704, he published Opticks. He died in 1727 at the age of 84.

His body remains in Westminster Abbey, the resting place of English monarchs, as well as other notable names like Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, and David Livingstone.

While most people are familiar with his laws of motion, let’s talk about some aspects of his life that are not as popular.

Unhappy childhood results in secretive personality

To his very last breath, Newton never married. He dedicated his entire life to science. Born prematurely on Christmas Day 1642 several months after the death of his father, Newton had an unhappy childhood. At the age of three, his mother remarried to a wealthy clergyman. He didn’t want a stepson, so his mother sent him to his grandparents.

With his father dead, and his mother abandoning him, Newton spent his childhood with his grandparents. That experience scarred Newton and played a role in shaping his solitary and untrusting nature.

As an adult, he immersed himself in his work. He had no hobbies and never married.

His mother wanted him to be a farmer

At the age of 12, Newton enrolled in a school in Grantham. He wasn’t a strong student in the beginning. But after a confrontation with a school bully, he wanted to best the other boy and started studying hard.

Yet, at the age of 16, his mother ordered him to quit school and return to Woolsthorpe Manor and become a farmer. He came back, but had little success at the job. He fared poorly at it, and eventually his former headmaster in Grantham persuaded his mother to get him back to school.

After finishing his coursework there, he left for Trinity College, University of Cambridge in 1661. Newton put farming behind him and started contributing to the world of science.

Black Death changed his life

You know the saying, “something good always comes out from something bad”? Well, in Newton’s case, that was the Black Death.

In 1665, following an outbreak of the bubonic plague in England, Cambridge University closed its door. That forced him to return home to Woolsthorpe Manor. And there, while sitting in the garden, he saw an apple fall from a tree. As we know nowadays, that served as an inspiration to formulate the law of universal gravitation.

Students didn’t love his lectures

In 1669, at the age of 26, Newton got appointed the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge. Newton was the second person to hold the Lucasian professorship. Fun fact: Stephen Hawking hold that professorship from 1979 to 2009 as the 17th person.

Newton remained at Cambridge for nearly 30 years. But he showed little interest in teaching or in his students. That is why students almost never attended his lectures. Sometimes, no one showed up at all.

Isaac put his all attention on his own research.

Running the Royal Mint

Did you know that Isaac Newton served as the warden of the Royal Mint? And he had forgers executed? In 1696, he got the job, serving at the facility responsible for producing England’s currency.

He left Cambridge and moved to the nation’s capital city. Three years later, he got promoted to the position of master of the mint. He held this position until his death in 1727.

During his tenure, he supervised a major initiative to take all of the country’s old coins out of circulation and replace them with a more reliable currency.

Newton investigated counterfeiters, tracked down suspected criminals, and sent them to the gallows.

Serving in Parliament

From 1689 to 1690, he briefly served in Parliament, representing Cambridge University. During that time, the legislative body enacted the Bill of Rights, limiting the power of the monarchy and laying out the rights of Parliament among with certain individual rights.

During his tenure in the Parliament, he spoke only once, and only to ask an usher to close a window. He then served again in Parliament from 1701 to 1702, but again, with little contribution.

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Thomas B.