You may have heard about Isaac Newton, and you may have learned a little about his work. But how did his laws come to be so influential today?
For many years, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, was the only name dominating scientific thinking. He believed that the weight of an object affected its fall. A heavier object, according to him, will reach the ground faster than a lighter one of the same size.
He also argued that a force must be applied constantly to keep an object moving. These Aristotle’s views were wrong. However, they were generally accepted because of how sensible and practical they seemed.
A lot of other views started to spring up after a while to question Aristotle’s views. In the 16th Century, Nicolaus Copernicus was courageous enough to dare it. He published a sun-centred idea of the universe.
Copernicus argued that the planets of the solar system revolved around the sun and not the Earth. This was contrary to Aristotle’s theory that suggested that the moon, the sun and all other planets revolved around the Earth.
Up next is Galileo Galilei, he conducted two experiments that have since set the tone for all scientific works that followed.
He first performed an experiment where he dropped a cannonball and a much lighter ball from the Tower of Pisa in Italy. The two balls landed on the ground at about the same time, debunking Aristotle’s theory once more.
His next experiment had bronze balls of different sizes coming down a wooden plane. He discovered that all the balls moved at the same rate despite their varying sizes.
These experiments confirmed that objects falling freely have the same acceleration notwithstanding their mass. This is as far as other forces like air resistance and friction can be minimised.
French Philosopher Rene Descartes in his Principles of Philosophy proceeded to add new depth and dimensions to the theories.
He proposed the three laws of nature. The first one stated that each thing, as long as it is within its power, would always maintain the same state. Consequently, when it is moved, it continues to do so.
The second law stated that “all movement is, of itself, along straight lines.” This law subsequently happened to be Newton’s first law. It was published in the year Newton was born in 1644.
Isaac Newton, after some obvious influence from Descartes’ principles, became the father of modern scientific thinking.
Newton ended up single-handedly doing amazing work in Mathematics. This work resulted in differential and integral calculus.
His grand word in optics also birthed the innovation of the first reflective telescope.
He went on to gain widespread recognition for his three simple laws. They could be used to describe the motion of objects on Earth and in the galaxies.
Isaac Newton second law states,
“When a force acts on an object, the object accelerates in the direction of the force. If the mass of an object is held constant, increasing force will increase acceleration. If the force on an object remains constant, increasing mass will decrease acceleration. In other words, force and acceleration are directly proportional, while mass and acceleration are inversely proportional.”
And the third law says,
“A force is exerted by one object on another object. In other words, every force involves the interaction of two objects. When one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object also exerts a force on the first object. The two forces are equal in strength and oriented in opposite directions.”
He described the three laws in a book known as the Principia or The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. The book, published in 1687, is regarded as one of the most influential books ever made. Apart from trying to simplify his second equation, his work was so astounding that scientists decided to use a Newton as the official unit of force.