Standard Article

Newton, Isaac (1642–1727)

  1. Douglas Estes

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc1608

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Estes, D. 2011. Newton, Isaac (1642–1727). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


The most gifted and distinguished natural philosopher in the history of the world. Born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England, on December 25, 1642, Newton was the son of a yeoman, Isaac, and his wife, Hannah. Three months before his birth, Newton's father died. His mother remarried when Isaac was two, and subsequently left him with his grandmother, Margery, to start a new family. Extremely interested in mechanical devices and chemicals as a young boy, Newton divided time between school and his family's farm. His uncle, an Anglican pastor, recognized his raw talent and arranged for Isaac to attend Trinity College at Cambridge in 1661, where he appeared to be an average student. Newton graduated from Cambridge in 1665, about the time the plague hit, and so he returned to his family's farm until 1667. These months at home were the annus mirabilis of his scientific career. During this brief period, Newton formulated a theory of gravitation, the three laws of motion, discovered the secret of light, color, and optics, and invented the science of mechanics and the mathematics of calculus (or “fluxions” to Newton) — all of which he very slowly and very reluctantly made public throughout the remainder of his life. In 1667, Newton returned to Trinity under the apprenticeship of Isaac Barrow. Worldwide recognition started in 1668 with his invention of the reflecting telescope. He became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge in 1669, holding the chair for 33 years, and was elected to the Royal Society in 1672. He published the first edition of his greatest work, the Principia, in 1687 and it quickly became the most important work in science ever published until the 20th century. Newton represented Cambridge in Parliament in 1689, and again in 1701–1702. He sought out and was given the per-functory post of Warden of the Mint in London in 1696, and was made Master of the Mint in 1699; he personally initiated many reforms at the mint. In 1703, Newton became the President of the Royal Society, a post he held for 24 years until his death, on March 20, 1727. Knighted by Queen Anne in 1705, he spent the remainder of his life defending his theories, dabbling in alchemy, and writing theology, having become the most famous living natural philosopher in the western world. He was a lifelong bachelor.


  • Newton, Isaac (1642–1727);
  • gifted and distinguished natural philosopher;
  • Newton's reputation, as the greatest scientist of the modern world;
  • Newton's theological passions, biblical prophecy and christology;
  • pursuit of God by every means and capacity