Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sir Isaac Newton - the early years

It's pretty safe to say everyone knows who Isaac Newton was. You've probably heard about his laws of motion, his research in optics, or his discoveries through calculus. Either way, Sir Newton is hailed as a successful genius.
  But did you know he had a very hard life? His father died before he was born, and after his mother got him financially situated, she left him with his grandparents. She remarried a rich man and spent tons of money on her other children's educations.

   Isaac returned to live with her and his new stepfather at age 10.  Around this time his mother pulled him out of school as it cost to much. She spared no amount of money on her other children, but she was unusually stern when it came to Isaac. His school teachers noticed the potential in him and offered to teach him free of charge if she'd let him return to school.
He was friends with the younger children and the girls, making fully-functioning miniature watermills (he was fascinated with those) and doll furniture. He did hot, however, fit in with the other boys, and they teased him for spending time with girls and smaller children.
When he left for college he had to pay his own way by working as a sizar, a highly undesirable position. Sizars were servants for richer students. It was embarrassing for Isaac, who was from a wealthy family, to serve in this position. His friends' fathers and mothers paid for their sons' education, parties, and clothing- Isaac could barely buy food.
Petty and jealous all his life, he had few friends at college. One friend, a boy named John, assisted him in the lab and during his discoveries. Isaac could be secretive- he practiced alchemy,  something he could've been thrown in prison for at the time. Anyone who has read the  Harry Potter books is familiar with the Philosopher's Stone; Newton truly believed this stone existed and much of his alchemy work was devoted to trying to find this. He also kept his discoveries hidden from John. He was often seen wandering the college campuses all alone.
After graduating from Trinity College, he would write the Principa  and go on to complete his famous discoveries, but it was his lonely childhood and troubled college experience that set the basis for his adult life.

In a later memoir, Newton wrote:
"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."

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