From the first time you read a story about a men who was hit by an apple, to the first time you heard “Newton’s Law” or “Newton’s Binomial Theorem”. Maybe you have thought about him when you suffered from learning calculus. Both young and old would have heard his name at least once – Newton. Let me introduce the giant standing on the shoulder of giant.

Info of Newton

Sir Isaac Newton

Newton’s portrait
(Image Source:Wikipedia)

Early life

Isaac Newton was born on January 4th, 1643 in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire England. According to his mother, due to premature birth, Newton was so weak and thin that he could fit into a mug. (Well, I know this is unnecessary informationXD I was drinking milk with a mug when I wrote this article, and I found that the size was quite exaggerated. I can’t help but add this story and hope you can imagine that.

Newton was educated at The King’s School, Grantham from the age of about twelve until he was seventeen. His mother attemped to make him a farmer, so Newton’s once removed from school and returned to Woolsthorpe. The master at The King’s School persuaded his mother to send him back to school. During the school time, Newton was always excellent. (There is also saying that Newton didn’t do well at school but he liked to do experiments. And he had talents in models and machinery. Well, I think that’s pretty much the same thing.) In 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge. After graduation, he went back to hometown because of the Black Death.

Newton Discovery

As mentioned earlier, Newton had returned to his hometown for two years after graduation. During these two years, Newton had not been idle, and he continued to think about the things he was interested in. It also laid an important foundation for the future, including the three greatest in his life. Discovery-gravitation, optics, calculus. (Aban Sui Nian: So proper rest or change of environment is also very important! Especially in this fast-paced era, remember to give yourself a space at the right time)

As mentioned previously, Newton had returned to his hometown for two years after graduation. During these two years, Newton still worked hard and kept thinking about the thing he was interested in. It also laid an important foundation for the future, including the three greatest discovery in his life – gravitation, optics, and calculus. (murmur from Alex: It proves that some proper rest or changing of enviroments is also important especially in this fast-paced era. So remember to give yourself a space sometimes.)


When it comes to calculus, there is another name that often mentioned together – Leibniz. Most scholars now believe that Newton and Leibniz developed calculus independently. Perhaps Newton developed earlier, but Leibniz published his research before Newton (in 1684, and Newton did not give a full account until 1704). These two people have create different mathematical notation. Leibniz’s notation were used throughout Europe, and Newton’s were only used in England. After 1820, Leibniz’s notation were also adopted by British mathematicians.

The member of the Royal Society accused Leibniz of plagiarizing. The dispute then broke out in full force in 1711 when the the Royal Society proclaimed that Newton was the true discoverer and labelled Leibniz a fraud, which made Leibniz embarrassed (well, the people found that the review of the investigation was written by Newton…).

The dispute was not resolved until Leibniz’s death (1716).

•Generalized Binomial Theorem

In 1665, the year Newton went back home, he discovered the the generalized binomial theorem. Many mathematicians have made a lot of efforts before, including Pascal, Yang Hui, Al-Karaji, etc. Newton extended the coefficients of the binomail theorem to rational numbers, and then found a new formula for \(\pi\).

I will serve a dishes about this topic. Stay tuned!

Everybody often say that mathematics and physics are inseparable. Let’s also see what did Newton do in optics and gravitation.


Many scientists tried to prove the existence of gravity. Newton was the first one who explained the gravity by mathematical demonstration. Since then, scientists can easily explain all the mysteries about universe, such as tides and celestial motion. Newton concluded gravitation and three well-known laws of motion into his book – “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”.


Have you ever played triangular prism? When you passed a thin beam of sunlight throught a prism you can see the spectrum of colors. He did some research on optics in addition to teaching optics in school. He therefore proposed and constructed a reflecting telescope, even better than that of the refraciton telescope. Later, Newton published “Opticks”. At that time there was a person called Hooke, who made some criticisms of the views in the book. It then opened the story between Hooke and Newton.

Newton and Hooke

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

When it comes to Newton, you may have heard about the saying. It sounds like Newton is super modest, right? But some people don’t think so. We must mention one person: Hooke. 

As everyone knows, Hooke is the first scientist to observe cells with a microscope. He has proposed the law describing elasticity (Hooke’s law) in physical research. He also invented a lot of scientific equipment and made many modifications to the machine. Some of them are still in use today. He is also talent in architecture.

Hooke was disapproving of Newton’s optical interpretation. Newton’s attempt to prove, by experiment alone, that light consists of the motion of small particles (However, the development of quantum mechanics found that light has wave-particle duality). The relations between the two was not so bad in the early days, they even communicated with letters to discuss the circular motion of objects. Perhaps there was a dispute at that time, Newton mentioned “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” in one letter. Some people believe that the sentence was an oblique attack on Hooke (said to have been short and hunchbacked) rather than a statement of modesty. When “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” was published, Hooke suspected that Newton had stolen some of his results. Then Newton deleted all references to Hooke.

Newton’s hatred for Hooke has not disappeared even after Hook’s death. Under the influence of Newton, the Royal Socienty took down the portrait of Hooke. And Newton also tried to burn Hooke’s manuscripts and articles, but was fortunately prevented.

Including Leibniz mentioned earlier, some people criticized that Newton is not standing on the shoulders of giants, but a giant trampling other giants. What do you think?

Newton, who was addicted to alchemy

Even Newton, who had done a lot of  physics and mathematics, was addicted to alchemy! For those who have seen “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “equivalent exchange” is a main idea that runs through the entire comics. Even if the protagonist wants to show a big trick in the end, the main idea can’t be violated. Iron cannot turn into gold, because the two are essentially different things.

However, it does not mean that alchemists failed. Under the desire to gold, it has driven tens of thousands of chemical experiments. Many experimental records are therefore retained. Newton also left a one-million-word alchemy manuscript, and applied supervisor of Royal Mint in London with these chemistry majors. There were many criminals who forged coins. Newton checked the purity of gold coins by his knowledge of chemistry, and was serious about convicting these people.

Newton’s apple

There is a story says that: Newton one day sat and thought under the apple tree, and after being hit by an apple, he realized gravitation. In fact Newton had not been hit by an apple (I know most of students hope he could be hit XD) but saw an apple falling down while walking in the yard.

There is such an apple tree in Newton’s hometown! The descendants of Newton’s apple tree were at Trinity College, Cambridge and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. It is said that there are three apples change the world: one for Eva, another for Newton, the other for Jobs. Nowadays we might focus on Jobs a little more. The earliest logo of Apple Inc. in the United States is really a pen drawing of Newton sitting under the apple tree!

It’s time to write down the conclusion. Alex recommend everyone should usually eat apples. An apple a day keeps a doctor away!

Add some ingredients

Wikipedia-Isaac Newton

Seasoned with Chinese

◊ Newton’s law of universal gravitation – 萬有引力定律
◊ calculus – 微積分
◊ binomail theorem – 二項式定理
◊ alchemy – 煉金術

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