A calculus fit to compute on,
White light, and a head to drop fruit on.
A mind to absorb it,
and soar into orbit,
—That's all it takes to be Newton.
Really smart groundbreaking scientist that looked like Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin
To elaborate, Isaac Newton is the originator of the Three Laws of Motion and the classical theory of universal gravitation.note
Born 1643 (not very long after Galileo died), the British physicist was a Jack Of All Trades
and dabbled in astronomy, mathematics, alchemy and theology. His work on gravity would lead to further credibility for to heliocentrism (the belief that the Sun, and not the Earth, is the centre of the universe). To derive the equations for motion in his Principia Mathematica
, he had to invent integral calculus
out of whole cloth. He was one of the trope codifiers
for the concept of Equivalent Exchange
("for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction") and the idea of a rational, regular universe—the idea that there are certain laws of nature that are always true, everywhere. This idea has become so entrenched in popular thought that, when further work by Albert Einstein
on the extreme scales
of the universe proved that his conclusions aren't
applicable everywhere, the larger body of scientific research since then—including that by
Einstein—has revolved around the idea of reconciling the two and restoring (our understanding of) the physical universe to a single, overarching theory.
Ironically, in his lifetime he was better known for heading the Royal Mint, where he introduced the practice of milling coins—putting a decorative border on them so it would be obvious if pieces had been clipped off. This was important because of a practice at the time where criminals would clip the edges off coins, keep the bits of precious metal to melt down, and pass off the clipped coin as its full value, weakening the currency (and thus causing inflation). This is remembered in the edge inscription of the modern British pound, DECUS ET TUTAMEN
("an ornament and a safeguard"). Newton is also commemorated in the edge description of the two pound coin (whose tail side bears a representation of scientific and technological progressnote
) with his relevant quote STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
. (On being praised for his scientific insight: "If I have seen further than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants."note
) He also furthered the fight against bad money personally: he would go undercover to taverns and so on to catch counterfeiters and clippers and collect evidence to prosecute them at trial—which he would then go on to do, as he was a justice of the peace (at the time more of an investigatory and prosecutorial position rather than a judicial one) in every county. Newton successfully prosecuted 28 counterfeiters while in office, most prominently William Chaloner.note
He also inadvertently switched Great Britain from a bimetallic
system to the gold standard
by setting the ratio of the value of the gold guinea (and other gold coins) to the value of the silver penny in a way that heavily favoured gold, leading to a mass exodus of silver from the country.note
He aHis tomb in Westminster Abbey references this financial career rather than his scientific one.
He is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space
. Also the inventor of the cat flap
. No, really.
He had a lonely, unhappy childhood, which may have been due to the fact that he was about a billion times smarter than anyone else around him. Even after he became a professor at Cambridge he frequently lectured to an empty classroom. Contemporary accounts peg him as an Insufferable Genius
; his nickname was "The Tyrant." He never married and apparently had no interest in romance and sex. It was only when he began corresponding with Christopher Wren and the other members of the Royal Society in London that he began to blossom as England's leading scientist.
Works featuring Isaac Newton:
- He is an important character in Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, which posited that he took the job at the mint and moved England to the gold standard because he was trying find Solomonic gold (the raw material for making the Philosopher's stone), which was accidentally put into general circulation as currency because of a quirk of fate involving a few vegabonds. He made it such that all the gold in the world will circulate through England at some point, allowing him to test them at his leisure. After all, historians did refer to Newton as the last alchemist.
- Robert Langdon visits his tomb in The Da Vinci Code.
- Newton turns up twice in Star Trek. The first time in Star Trek: The Next Generation as hologram, playing cards against Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and (non-holographic) Data. The second time, he is briefly transported onto the Voyager by a Q, who mentions that if he never had gotten the inspiration to put forth the notion of gravity, he would have died penniless in debtor's prison... and a suspect in several prostitute murders.
- Is the codifier of all (European) Magic in the Rivers of London books, and the reason all spells are in Gratuitous Latin.
- Missed meeting wizards from the Unseen University in The Science of Discworld II: The Globe having just stepped out for some fresh air when they pop in. It was probably for the best. A footnote in the science text says that if anyone on Roundworld was going to discover laws of magic it would be him. This inspired his role in Rivers of London.
- Plays the Only Sane Man in Frederick The Great, where he is literal math wizard. Notably, he once held a symposium to discover the secret of time travel- a symposium where every member was an alternate version of himself.
- In Irregular Webcomic!, Newton is a time-travelling historical badass.
- It turns out that Newton himself is the Big Bad Emperor in Vision of Escaflowne.
- Major character in the Age of Unreason series, not surprising when the first book is called Newton's Cannon. The book opens with Newton successfully making alchemy work, and goes from there.
- He is the main character - sort of - of Gotlib's Rubrique-à-Brac, in what could be the longest Running Gag ever.
- As mentioned in the intro, referenced in Mass Effect 2 as the reason one does not "eyeball" the firing of a kinetic kill munition that travels at significant fractions of lightspeed.
- Mentioned very briefly in Apollo 13. When Jim Lovell powers down the LEM's reaction-control thrusters to save battery power, he remarks, "And that's it. We just put Sir Isaac Newton in the driver's seat."
- He appeared at the end of a Pitheco story Centuries after Pitheco failed to pitch the famous discovery.
- He's an Age II leader in Through The Ages.