The Ocean of Truth: an Analysis of Sir Isaac Newton in Physics and Life

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"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."Sir Isaac NewtonHe is considered to be one of the most marvelous scientists of all time; Isaac Newton has often been seen as a materialist who saw the world in perfect absolute sections. His established image has been one of a scientist who swept away centuries of lack of knowledge and false notion, giving dawn to an era of practical science in a modern lucid world. However Newton, a passionate seeker of a synthesis of all knowledge, sought after a unified theory of the principles of the universe and alleged that this synthesis - the prisca sapientia - was once known by civilization.

His very use throughout his life was to revive this ancient wisdom, not only through the areas of mathematics and physics for which he is most remembered but, more importantly for him, through the pursuit of such disciplines as alchemy, chronology, and theology, seeking to include God in everything he investigated. Ironically, it is Newton's work in physics and mathematics that has often been cited as the rationale behind the refutation of the ancient wisdom about which he was most fervent. One of his greatest achievements, mathematical proof of a heliocentric solar system, continues to be used today as a major argument against the validity of astrology. He is seen as being largely responsible for the development of the scientific enlightenment, which removed the common belief in magic and mysticism. However, it was through immersing himself in these very methods that he was able to achieve extraordinary insight into the once impenetrable mysteries of the cosmos.

The to-be genius was born prematurely in Woolsthorpe, England on Christmas Day in 1642; Newton was so tiny that he was not expected to survive the first week after his birth, and to most likely have mental retardation when he got older. He was born into a family of farmers and although his father, who had died three months earlier, was a relatively wealthy man he was completely uneducated. Newton's childhood was an unhappy one and is considered accountable for his often multifaceted and detestable nature as an adult. When he was three years old his mother remarried. Her new husband, reverend of the church of a nearby village had refused to take the young Isaac as his own son and he was sent to live with his grandparents. It then with despair happened that he did not get on with his grandfather and felt bitterness towards his mother and stepfather. Years later he would confess among his past sins the desire to set alight the house with his mother and stepfather in it. He began living with his mother again, along with his grandmother, a half brother and two half sisters upon the death of his stepfather seven years later. As a young boy, it was projected that Newton would maintain the family farm. It was considered that he did not need schooling and he was therefore removed from school. However, it soon became blatantly clear, that he was not cut out for this occupation. Due to the persistence of his uncle, he was finally sent to Trinity College, Cambridge. Here Newton began his long and very successful involvement with Cambridge University in May of 1661, although it seemed that he did not initially excel in academic studies. Even though his mother was moderately wealthy, she was not prepared to spend money on his schooling. Hence, he enrolled as a "sizar", a low status student, which required him to perform tedious duties for fellows and students of higher rank in order to pay for his education. The university at that time was still well-established in Aristotelian tradition and was yet to be influenced by the new philosophies. Newton, responsive of the influences, spent much of his time studying the works of Descartes, Galileo, Kepler and other new thinkers. Becoming recognizable with their work, he found many interesting directions to explore and set out to expand on their theories. Early on in his time at Cambridge, Newton picked up an astrology book at a fair but could not understand the geometry and trigonometry. He took up the study of such authors as Euclid and, in particular, Descartes in order to comprehend the contents of the book. It was at this time that he began to develop an enthusiastic awareness of mathematics.

In 1665, Newton was given his bachelor's degree. On the contrary, for the next two years, Cambridge University was closed due to the plague purging England. Newton spent his time at his home in Woolsthorpe formulating many of the ideas from which he would afterward find distinction. It was a time that he would soon call his "anno mirabilis". During this time, Newton continued his personal exploration of physics, and began consideration on the prospect of universal gravitation. He had granted with Descartes that a body in circular motion strives to always withdraw from the center. This added credibility to the idea that objects in motion have their own force. He conceived the force as similar to a string that holds a ball in a rounded course as it is whirls around and around until the revolving becomes so great that the force exceeds the strength of the string and the string snaps sending the ball off into departure. He felt that the force in the string that held the ball on course could be measured. He guessed that something held the planets to the Sun and the Moon to the Earth and that this force was somehow measurable. In the early 1600s, Kepler had developed the Laws of Planetary Motion, the first of these laws telling the planets' orbits as elliptical rather than circular. The additional two laws are that a planet will differ its speed depending on the stage of its orbit, and the time it takes to complete an orbit will depend upon the planet's distance from the Sun. Galileo had written his own clarification of how things fell to earth, and had wondered that, if the earth was moving, could we be carried alongside with it and not be aware of it's motion. Having read the works of both Kepler and Galileo, Newton linked the two and began to put together his theories of gravitation. Like the fall of an apple to the ground, an attraction of the planets to the Sun and the Moon to the Earth caused them to 'fall' towards the Sun or the Earth. But their movement around the Sun and Earth also disposed them towards a lateral course, away from these bodies. Newton alleged they held the exacting courses they did in a path where the two forces found balance against each other - that is, where the two differing forces were alike. Newton found that these forces strengthened as the two attracting forces approached each other or weakened as they moved away from each other in a ratio of the square to their distances. He also renowned that the force attracting two objects increased or decreased in a ratio of their combined sizes or mass. In order to make this work, Newton realized that he required calculating the force of their trajectories from a position at the center of planetary bodies - not from their surfaces. Opposing to the Newtonian legend that these ideas sprung completely twisted into his mind with the fall of an apple, his ideas underwent a twenty-year conception age before they emerged as full-grown and believable theories.

In 1669, at the age of 27, Newton was selected to the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. This wasn't the prominent position that it is now seeing as how the modern Stephen Hawking has held it since 1979; but it gave him a boost in earnings and more prospect to gain reception for his work. He sustained in this position for 33 years even after leaving Cambridge for the last time in 1696 to take up a position at the Royal Mint. A principal area of interest to Newton, and one that amplified his rank within the scientific society was the study of optics. Through his work with optics and colors Newton came to believe that refracting telescopes, which were subject matter to color intrusion, were outdated. His advance of the reflecting telescope made his instruments much smaller and was predominantly useful for looking at secluded bodies, such as Jupiter, that only reflected small amounts of light. In January of 1672, after donating a reflecting telescope, Newton was chosen a fellow of the Royal Society. He remained with the Royal Society until his death, having become its president in 1703. It was in his initial year with the Royal Society that he published his first scientific paper on light and color in the 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.' Even though the paper was by and large well received, Robert Hooke, a foremost authority at the Royal Society, believed that optics were his field and refuted a lot of what Newton had written. He later accused Newton of plagiarism thus beginning a lifelong rivalry between them. In 1679 Hooke initiated a sequence of letters on the query of planetary motion. This swap of letters between Hooke and Newton provided the abstract link that Newton needed between the theory central attraction and the force falling off with the square of distance. He began to work out the mathematics of orbits, creating several advances to his theories. However, as was his tendency, he did not distribute his results at that time, setting the study aside to focus on alchemy and theology. Early in 1684 Christopher Wren, Edmund Halley, and Robert Hooke, met in their usual London coffee house, and began to plan over the workings of celestial motion. Hooke, having written to Newton about these matters, announced to the others that the pull between the Sun and the planets decreases in amount to the square of the distance. Wren, fully aware of Hooke's affinity to exaggerate his claims, challenged him to confirm it and offered a prize to anybody able to provide convincing evidence. As Wren predicted, Hooke was incapable to meet this challenge. Soon after this gathering, Edmund Halley paid a visit to Newton eager to find an answer to the conundrum. He asked how the planets would move if there was a force of attraction among bodies that diluted in proportion to the square of the distance. Without uncertainty, Newton's responded that it was an ellipse. Surprised by Newton's self-belief in his answer, Halley asked how it was that he may well know this. Newton explained that he had already calculated it years earlier and, incapable to find his calculations, promised to send Halley a new set of calculations as shortly as possible. This was the pressure that Newton required to set to work on what is repeatedly said to be the most significant book ever published in the history of science. This book is known as 'Principia'.

In his preceding research, Newton revealed three laws of motion, the law of gravity being a particular case of the second of these laws. Put purely, the laws are: (1) A body remains in a state of rest or a state of motion unless force acting upon it compels it to change. (2) Change occurs in proportion to the force applied and in the same direction. (3) For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. These laws, beside with his law of universal gravity, were discussed in the consequential work 'Philosophiae Naturalis Principa Mathematica' ('Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy'). The 'Principia', as it is generally recognized, is separated into three books. Book One discusses his laws of motion then proceeds to a succession of propositions, theorems and tribulations. Book Two gives an appealing discussion on how Descartes' use of vortices to clarify planetary motion could not be persistent, nor was the vortex theory reliable with Kepler's three planetary rules. Book Three, subtitled the 'System of the World', and published after the other two books, extends Newton's three laws of motion to the frame of the world. He explains that there is a power of gravity tending to all bodies, relative to the more than a few quantities of matter that they hold. To reveal this theory, he used gravitational pull to explain a wide range of previously dissimilar phenomena counting the motion of the planets and their moons, the precession of the equinoxes, the act of the tides and the peculiar orbit of comets. To test his premise of universal gravitation, Newton had written to Flamsteed to ask if Jupiter had been observed to slow down upon passing Saturn. Flamsteed was staggered by Newton's query and replied that it had certainly been observed and was strongly predicted by the calculations Newton had provided. The equations were further long-established by observing the shape of the earth to be oblate spherical, as Newton claimed it ought to be, rather than prolate spherical, as believed by the Cartesians. These equations were also used by Halley to properly predict the return of what then became known as Halley's Comet. Newton yet again underwent difficulties with Hooke. A figure of scientists supposed that a contrary square law probably applied in the way that Newton said it did except they had not been capable to prove that this would create an elliptical orbit as observed by Johannes Kepler. Nevertheless, not only did Kepler's laws give Newton ideas about gravity, once he had worked out his gravitational equation, Kepler's laws served to verify that it was valid. When Newton was able to offer this proof, Hooke wanted acclaim for his part in the discoveries. Newton was so enraged by what he saw as Hooke's groundless claims that he at first refused to release the third book of 'Principa'. He finally relented, but removed all references to Hooke's name all through the book.

One of the main difficulties Newton encountered in presenting his thoughts to the scientific society was that during the seventeenth century, the idea of an invisible force was abomination to any self-regarding scientist. Having fought to defeat a past history of what was called 'occult forces'; scientists were doubtful to hold any suggestion of a strange force emanating from celestial bodies. To use the similarity of the string and the stone, one can perceive what holds the stone in its orbit. With celestial bodies, though, there was no evident rationale of something holding them in place. Newton came to understand that there should be a force that held the planets in orbit around the Sun and the Moon in orbit around the Earth. It was for these grounds he came to develop his laws. It has been recommended that Newton's ability to accept an idea that was considered unorthodox was due to his committed attention to alchemy. Descartes, Galileo, and Leibniz had rejected the idea. By accepting this work, people were also led to recognize a heliocentric view of the cosmos, even though there was still no confirmation that the earth moved. With Newton's discoveries, the inquisitor's stress of Galileo had not been met. He had been charged with proposing the suggestion that the earth moved and there was still no proof that he had been right. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that verification would be available. However, the heliocentric view that had been dominated by Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler lastly had a scientific law to put together as valid.

When Newton was made a fellow of Cambridge, along with an accord to embrace the Anglican faith, the Trinity fellowship also made requisite ordination within 8 years. Throughout his studies Newton had come to consider that the central doctrine of the church, the Holy and Undivided Trinity was a pagan dishonesty forced on Christianity in the fourth century by Athanasius. Newton was faced with a massive problem. He now felt that, in all realization, he could no longer take holy commands. Nonetheless, to give the cause for this would have led to his instant eviction from Cambridge. At that time, and during Newton's life, accusation of the Trinity was unlawful. He was by privileges a heretic. He sought after special indulgence from taking holy commands, something that was sooner or later granted. It is still not clear what reasons he gave for his in quest of this special consideration but it is improbable that it was for the authentic reason. In 1710, Newton's heir to the Lucasian Chair, William Whiston, was expelled from his position for advocating Unitarianism, the denial of the Holy Trinity. Even though these views make Newton a heretic from the standpoint of traditional Christianity, he was in fact a keen believer in the Bible. Newton's laws of motion contradicted the accepted biblical doctrine in the same way that Galileo's views had. But rather than contradicting the Bible, Newton alleged that the Bible was accurate and that it was the understanding of theologians that was wrong. He sustained study to biblical prophecy until his death, being captivated by its cipher and creating a glossary of prophetic emblems. Newton's muse for his all-embracing research on theology was led by a strong conviction that the ancients had possessed true understanding and knowledge about God and the world.

All through his life, Newton depleted more time strongly involved with alchemy than any of his scientific pursuits. Many of his biographers claim that anything that has not been considered in keeping with his scientific discoveries has often been regarded as ill-advised. A truer picture of Newton, hidden for so long, began to come to light when John Maynard Keyes purchased a collection of papers that had been rejected by Cambridge as having no scientific value. In 1942 Keyes gave a speech on these papers giving enlightenment to a very different view of Newton-"Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind which looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago." Newton, like nearly all alchemists of the time, believed that alchemic knowledge extended back to ancient times. He believed strongly in the religious and astrological symbolism of alchemy. Newton became involved in reserved alchemical networks, devoting time to replication the unpublished alchemical dissertations passed around among them. The ultimate goal of the alchemist was an inner conversion of the mind. Achievement depended on the alchemist's state of mind, prayer and meditation being part of the practice. Newton often requested that his colleague alchemist Robert Boyle keep silent in publicly discussing alchemy. Other than rather than being hesitant with his participation in alchemy, it seems that Newton believed that this secret understanding was not for everyone. Widespread discussions have taken place in the earlier period as to whether Newton was an astrologer or whether it was something he discarded. In an unpublished biography by his nephew-in-law John Conduitt, Newton is quoted as saying "I was soon convinced of the vanity and emptiness of the pretended science of judicial astrology." It is not credible to recognize this statement as an outright disapproval of astrology. Both Kepler and John Dee, notorious for drawing up the electional chart for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I, were gratified for financial and political reasons to produce almanacs and charts for the wealthy and the broad public. Newton however, liberated from all such constraints, was able to ponder on the deeper symbolism of astrology, above all as it related to alchemy, optics, and chronology. It is sensible to assume that legal astrology held no attraction for him for the cause that he supposed the answers to the mysteries of the universe lay in the observations of the past, and not of the future. The story most often cited when suggestive of that Newton was an astrologer has also been cited as referring to Newton's passion for theology. The quote was described in a biography of Newton by David Brewster "When Dr Halley ventured to say anything disrespectful to religion he invariably checked him with the remark 'I have studied these things - you have not'". There is no substantiated confirmation signifying that Newton ever made such a comment about either astrology or theology. If it was said, it is possible that this comment can be applied evenly to astrology and theology. Newton was a person who saw the interconnectedness of all things. Confidentially at least, he would not have thought to classify his interests in the way that historians have so often done. To him, it was all the same and it all came from God. Halley and Newton were friends and, since Halley did not share the same concentration for such matters, he frequently teased his friend about his research into these areas in a good-natured way whether it was theology, astrology, alchemy or any of Newton's other varied interests. It is improbable that he ever practiced astrology in the sense of depiction of charts and interpreting them. What he did, though, was to take his understanding of astrological principles and apply them to his search for insight into the laws of ancient wisdom for alchemy, his works on physics and mathematics included.

Newton sought after answers in any way he possibly could. All of his writings enclose a profound essential examination of the deeper importance of the universal truths hidden within the ancient prophecies to his point of time. It is not Newton's work that has shaped an image of an important person devoted only to rigid scientific analysis but quite the long history of attempting to conceal any work that didn't fit into this image. Prior interpretations of Newton's writings have led us to acknowledge and accept an erroneous image of a man who was far more diverse in his approach to his studies than we have previously understood. It is possible that he would have agreed with French alchemist François Trojani who said, 'for all its great usefulness, science is a very limited, very fragmented, and not very profound way of trying to investigate the mysteries of the universe.'One of the main things to come out of it all a respect for Newton's other areas of concentration in their own right, rather than as irrelevant adjuncts. To make this point, it suggests that the question shouldn't be why one of the world's utmost scientists should have spent so much time thinking and writing about such mysterious matters, but why did one of the greatest scientists, alchemists, philosophers, astrologists, and theologians of the 17th century take time off to write works on natural science. Why should Newton's theological and alchemical works be considered as less valid than his scientific works? In reality, Newton himself wrote them all with the same reason in mind - to understand God. He had alleged that experimentation had a moral object - to learn more about God and how to serve understanding towards Him. He saw himself not as someone who was a lead the way pioneer of the new science but as a restorer of ancient wisdom God had given to humankind. Newton sought to reunite the Book of Nature with the Book of Scripture. If we look closely enough, we will see evidence of this in all of Newton's work-whether it is mathematics, physics, theology, alchemy-they all bear the mark of a true genius who was knowledgeable of this to put himself in resemblance of God-Sir Isaac Newton.

Works CitedNewton, Isaac. Great Books of the Western World: Principia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Giovanni Battista Pittoni, Domenico Valeriani, and Giuseppe Valeriani. An Allegorical Monument to Sir Isaac Newton. 1727-30.

Keynes, John Maynard. Newton, The Man. The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes Volume X. MacMillan St. Martin's Press. pp. 363-4. 1942.

Yates, Frances A. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. London: Routledge. 1972.

Enlightenment and Religion: Rational Dissent in eighteenth-century Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 64. 2004.

Koyré, A. Newtonian Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1965Hermann, Rolf-Dieter. "The Religious and Metaphysical Thought of Isaac Newton." Cambridge: The Cambridge Journal of Physics, 56:204, April 1976.