Mathematics is often defined as the study of quantity, magnitude, and relations of numbers or symbols. It embraces the subjects of arithmetic, geometry, algebra, calculus, probability, statistics, and many other special areas of research.
There are two major divisions of mathematics: pure and applied. Pure mathematics investigates the subject solely for its theoretical interest. Applied mathematics develops tools and techniques for solving specific problems of business and engineering or for highly theoretical applications in the sciences.
Mathematics is pervasive throughout modern life. Baking acake or building a house involves the use of numbers, geometry, measures, and space. The design of precision instruments, the development of new technologies, and advanced computers all use more technical mathematics.
Mathematics is the science of structure, order, and relation that has evolved from elemental practices of counting, measuring, and describing the shapes of objects. It deals with logical reasoning and quantitative calculation, and its development has involved an increasing degree of idealization and abstraction of its subject matter.
Mathematics first arose from the practical need to measure time and to count. Thus, the history of mathematics begins with the origins of numbers and recognition of the dimensions and properties of space and time. The earliest evidence of primitive forms of counting occurs in notched bones and scored pieces of wood and stone. Early uses of geometry are revealed in patterns found on ancient cave walls and pottery.
As civilizations arose in
The earliest continuous records of mathematical activity that have survived in written form are from the 2nd millennium BC. The Egyptian pyramids reveal evidence of a fundamental knowledge of surveying and geometry as early as 2900 BC. Written testimony of what the Egyptians knew, however, is known from documents drawn up about 1,000 years later.
Two of the best-known sources for our current knowledge of ancient Egyptian mathematics are the Rhind papyrus and the
Egyptian arithmetic, based on counting in groups of ten, was relatively simple. Base-10 systems, the most widespread throughout the world, probably arose for biological reasons. The fingers of both hands facilitated natural counting in groups of ten. Numbers are sometimes called digits from the Latin word for finger. In the Egyptians' base-10 arithmetic, hieroglyphs stood for individual units and groups of tens, hundreds, and thousands. Higher powers of ten made it possible to count numbers into the millions. Unlike our familiar number system, which is both decimal and positional (23 is not the same as 32), the Egyptians' arithmetic was not positional but additive.
Unlike the Egyptians, the Babylonians of ancient
The Babylonians apparently adopted their base-60 number system for economic reasons. Their principal units of weight and money were the mina, consisting of 60 shekels, and the talent, consisting of 60 mina. This sexagesimal arithmetic was used in commerce and astronomy. Surviving tablets also show the Babylonians' facility in computing compound interest, squares, and square roots.
Because their base-60 system was especially flexible for computation and handling fractions, the Babylonians wereparticularly strong in algebra and number theory. Tablets survive giving solutions to first-, second-, and some third-degree equations. Despite rudimentary knowledge of geometry, the Babylonians knew many cases of the Pythagorean theorem for right triangles. They also knew accurate area formulas for triangles and trapezoids. Since they used a crude approximation of three for the value of pi, they achieved only rough estimates for the areas of circles.
The Greeks were the first to develop a truly mathematical spirit. They were interested not only in the applications of mathematics but in its philosophical significance, which was especially appreciated by Plato (see Plato).
The Greeks developed the idea of using mathematical formulas to prove the validity of a proposition. Some Greeks, like Aristotle, engaged in the theoretical study of logic, the analysis of correct reasoning (see Aristotle). No previous mathematics had dealt with abstract entities or the idea of a mathematical proof.
Pythagoras provided one of the first proofs in mathematicsand discovered incommensurable magnitudes, or irrational numbers (see Pythagoras). The Pythagorean theorem relates the sides of a right triangle with their corresponding squares. The discovery of irrational magnitudes had another consequence for the Greeks: since the lengths of diagonals of squares could not be expressed by rational numbers of the form a/b, the Greek number system was inadequate for describing them. Due to the incompleteness of their number system, the Greeks developed geometry at the expense of algebra. The only systematic contribution to algebra was made much later inantiquity by Diophantus. Called the father of algebra, he devised symbols to represent operations, unknown quantities, and frequently occurring constants.
Ancient knowledge of the sciences was often wrong and wholly unsatisfactory by modern standards. However, the mathematics of Euclid, Apollonius of Perga, and Archimedes—the three greatest mathematicians of antiquity—remains as valid today as it was more than 2,000 years ago (see Apollonius of Perga; Archimedes; Euclid). Euclid's ‘Elements of Geometry' used logic and deductive reasoning to set up axioms, postulates, and a collection oftheorems related to plane and solid geometry, as well as atheory of proportions used to resolve the difficulty of irrational numbers. Despite its flaws, the ‘Elements' remains a historic example of how to establish universally agreed-upon knowledge by following a rigorous course of deductive logic. Apollonius, best known for his work on conic sections, coined the terms parabola, hyperbola, and ellipse. Another great figure was Ptolemy, who contributed to the development of trigonometry and mathematical astronomy.
Roman mathematicians, in contrast to the Greeks, are renowned for being very practical. The Roman mind did not favor the abstract side of mathematics, which had so delighted the Greeks. The Romans cared instead for the usefulness of mathematics in measuring and counting. As the fortunes of the
The Middle Ages
Indian mathematicians were especially skilled in arithmetic, methods of calculation, algebra, and trigonometry. Aryabhata calculated pi to a very accurate value of 3.1416, and Brahmagupta and Bhaskara II advanced the study of indeterminate equations. Because Indian mathematicians were not concerned with such theoretical problems as irrational numbers, they were ableto make great strides in algebra. Their decimal place-valued number system, including zero, was especially suited for easy calculation. Indian mathematicians, however, lacked interest in a sense of proof. Most of their results were presented simply as useful techniques for given situations, especially in astronomical or astrological computations.
One of the greatest scientific minds of Islam was al-Khwarizmi, who introduced the name (al-jabr) that became known as algebra. Consequently, the numbers familiar to most people are still referred to as Arabic numerals. Arab mathematicians also translated and commented on Ptolemy's astronomy before it was broughtto the attention of Europeans. Islamic scholars not only translated the works of Euclid, Archimedes, Apollonius, and Ptolemy into Arabic but advanced beyond what the Greek mathematicians had done to provide new results of their own.
By the end of the 8th century the influence of Islam had extended as far west as
Most of the early mathematical activity of the Renaissance was centered in Italy, where the mathematician Luca Pacioli wrote a standard text on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry that served to introduce the subject to students for generations. The solution of the cubic equation instigated great rivalries and priority claims between Italian mathematicians Scipione del Ferro, Niccolò Tartaglia, and Gerolamo Cardano. Among the advances inalgebra made during the 16th century, the use of letters of the alphabet to denote constants, variables, and unknowns in equations is notable. This symbolic algebra later proved to be the key to advances in geometry, algebra, and the infinitesimal calculus.
Mathematics received considerable stimulus in the 17th century from astronomical problems. The astronomer Johannes Kepler, for example, who discovered the elliptical shape of the planetary orbits, was especially interested in the problem of determining areas bounded by curved figures (see Kepler). Kepler and other mathematicians used infinitesimal methods of one sort oranother to find a general solution for the problem of areas. In connection with such questions, the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat investigated properties ofmaxima and minima. He also discovered a method of determining tangents to curves, a problem closely related to the almost simultaneous development of the differentialand integral calculus by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz later in the century (see Fermat; Leibniz; Newton).
Of equal importance to the invention of the calculus was the independent discovery of analytic geometry by Fermat and René Descartes (see Descartes). Of the two, Descartes used a better notation and devised superior techniques. Above all, he showed how the solution of simultaneous equations was facilitated through the application of analytic geometry. Many geometric problems could be translated directly into equivalent algebraic terms for solution.
Developed in the 17th century, projective geometry involves, in part, the analysis of conic sections in terms of their projections. Its value was not fully appreciated until the 19th century. The study of probability as related to games of chance had also begun.
The greatest achievement of the century was the discoveryof methods that applied mathematics to the study of motion. An example is Galileo's analysis of the parabolic path of projectiles, published in 1638. At the same time, the Dutch mathematician Christiaan Huygens was publishing works on the analysis of conic sections and special curves. He also presented theorems related to the paths of quickest descent of falling objects (see Huygens).
The unsurpassed master of the application of mathematics to problems of physics was Isaac Newton, who used analytic geometry, infinite series, and calculus to make numerous mathematical discoveries.
Although the new calculus was an immediate success, its methods were sharply criticized because infinitesimals were sometimes treated as if they were finite and, at other times, as if they were zero. Doubts about the foundations of the calculus were unresolved until the 19th century.
The discovery of analytic geometry and invention of the calculus made possible the application of mathematics toa wide range of problems in the 18th century. The Bernoullis, a Swiss family of mathematicians, were pioneers in the application of the calculus to physics. However, they were not the only ones to advance the calculus in the 18th century. Mathematicians in
The greatest development of mathematics in the 18th century took place on the Continent, where monarchs suchas Louis XIV, Frederick the Great, and the Empress Catherine the Great of
Joseph-Louis Lagrange contributed to mechanics, foundations of the calculus, the calculus of variations, probability theory, and the theories of numbers and equations (see Lagrange). While analysis was being developed by some French mathematicians, others were turning to geometry and probability theory. The French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace succeeded in applying probability theory and analysis to the Newtonian theory of celestial mechanics. He was thereby able to establish the dynamic stability of the solar system (see
The 19th century witnessed tremendous change in mathematicswith increased specialization and new theories of algebra and number theory. The entire scope of mathematics was enriched by the discovery of controversial areas of study such as non-Euclidean geometries and transfinite set theory. Non-Euclidean geometries, in showing that consistent geometries could be developed for which Euclid's parallel postulate did not hold, raised significant questions pertaining to the foundation of mathematics.
The German mathematician Karl Weierstrass brought new levels of rigor to analysis by reducing its elements to arithmetic principles and by using power series as a foundation for the theory of complex functions. August Möbius, also from
Two related areas of mathematics established in the 19th century proved to be of major significance in the 20th century: set theory and mathematical logic. These were closely related to questions concerning the foundations of mathematics and the continuum of real numbers as investigated by Richard Dedekind and Georg Cantor (see Cantor). It was Cantor who created set theory and the theory of transfinite numbers.
Twentieth-century mathematics is highly specialized and abstract. The advance of set theory and discoveries involving infinite sets, transfinite numbers, and purely logical paradoxes caused much concern as to the foundations of mathematics. In addition to purely theoretical developments, devices such as high-speed computers influenced both the content and the teaching of mathematics. Among the areas of mathematical research that were developed in the 20th century are abstract algebra, non-Euclidean geometry, abstract analysis, mathematical logic, and the foundations of mathematics.
Modern abstract algebra includes the study of groups, rings, algebras, lattices, and a host of other subjects developed from a formal, abstract point of view. This approach formed the cornerstone of the work of a group of mathematicians called Bourbaki. Bourbaki uses abstract algebra in an axiomatic framework to develop virtually all branches of higher mathematics, including set theory, algebra, and general topology.
The significance of non-Euclidean geometry was realized early in the 20th century when the geometry was applied in mathematical physics. It has come to play an essential role in the theory of relativity and has also raised controversial philosophical questions about the nature of mathematics and itsfoundations.
Another area of mathematics, abstract analysis, has produced theories of the derivatives and integrals in abstract and infinite-dimensional spaces. There are many areas of special interest in the field of abstract analysis, including functional analysis, harmonic analysis, families of functions, integral equations, divergent and asymptotic series, summability, and the study of functions of a complex variable. In recent years, analysis has advanced with the introduction of nonstandard analysis. By developing infinitesimals this theory provides an alternative to the traditional approach of using limits in the calculus.
The most notable development in the area of logic began in the 20th century with the work of two English logicians and philosophers, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead. Theobject of their three-volume publication, ‘Principia Mathematica' (1910–13), was to show that mathematics can be deduced from a very small number of logical principles. In the 1930s questions about the logical consistency and completeness of axiomatic systems helped to spark interest in mathematical logic and concern for the foundations of mathematics. Since the 1940s mathematical logic has become increasingly specialized.
The foundations of mathematics have many “schools.” At the beginning of the 20th century, David Hilbert was determined to preserve the powerful methods of transfinite set theory and the use of the infinite in mathematics, despite apparent paradoxes and numerous objections (see Hilbert, David). He believed it was possible to find finite means of establishing the truth of mathematical propositions, even when the infinite was involved. To this end Hilbert devoted considerable effort to developing a metamathematical theory of proofs. His program was virtually abandoned in the 1930s when Kurt Gödel demonstrated that for any general axiomatic system there are always theorems that cannot be proved or disproved (see Gödel, Kurt).
Hilbert's followers, known as formalists, view mathematics in terms of abstract structures. The axioms are developed as arbitrary rules. When applied to the unspecified elements of the theory, they can be used to establish the validity of theorems. Mathematical “truth” is thus reduced to the question of logical self-consistency. Those opposed to the formalist view, called intuitionists, believe that the basic truths of mathematics presentthemselves as fundamental intuitions of thought. The oldest philosophy of mathematics is usually ascribed to Plato. Platonism asserts the existence of eternal truths, independent ofthe human mind. In this philosophy the truths of mathematics arise from an abstract, ideal reality.
SUBDIVISIONS OF MATHEMATICS
Throughout history mathematics has become increasingly complex and diversified. At the same time, however, it has become increasingly general and abstract. Among the major subdivisions of modern mathematics are the following:
Arithmetic comes from the word arithmos, meaning “number” in Greek. It is the study of the nature and properties of numbers. It includes study of the algorithms of calculation with numbers, namely the basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as the taking of powers and roots. Arithmetic is often applied in the calculation of fractions, ratios, percentages, and proportions.
Algebra has often been described as “arithmetic with letters.” Unlike arithmetic, which deals with specific numbers, algebra introduces variables that greatly extend the generality and scope of arithmetic. The algebra taught in high schools involves techniques for solving relatively simple equations.
Modern algebra, or abstract algebra, is a more general branch of mathematics that analyzes algebraic axioms and operations with arbitrary sets of symbols. Special areas of abstract algebra include the study of groups, rings, fields, the algebra of matrices, and a large variety of nonassociative and noncommutative algebras. Special algebras of sets and vectors and Boolean algebras arise in the study of logic (see Boole). Algebra is used in the calculation of compound interest, in the solution of distance-rate-time problems, or in any situation in the sciences where the determination of unknown quantities from a body of known data is required.
The word geometry is derived from the Greek meaning “earth measurement.” Although geometry originated for practical purposes in ancient
In the 19th century, Euclidean geometry's status as the primary geometry was challenged by the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries. These inspired a new approach to the subject by presenting theorems in terms of axioms applied to properties assigned to undefined elements called points and lines. This led to many new geometries, including elliptical, hyperbolic, and parabolic geometries. Modern abstract geometry deals with very general questions of space, shape, size, and other properties of figures. Projective geometry, for example, is an abstract geometry concerned with the geometric properties that remain invariant under the projection of figures onto other figures, as in the case of mathematical perspective.
A very useful approach to geometry is found in topology, the studyof the properties of a geometric figure that remain the same when a figure is subjected to continuous transformation without loss of identity of any of its parts. Differential geometry is the studyof geometry in terms of infinitesimals.
Analytic Geometry and Trigonometry
Analytic geometry combines the generality of algebra with the precision of geometry. It is sometimes called Cartesian geometry, after Descartes, who was the first to exploit the methods of algebra in geometry. Analytic geometry addresses geometric problems from an algebraic point of view by associating any curve with variables by means of a coordinate system. For example, in a two-dimensional coordinate system, any point on a curve can be associated with a pair of points (a,b). General properties of such curves can then be studied in terms of their algebraic properties.
Trigonometry is the study of triangles, angles, and their relations.It also involves the study of trigonometric functions. There are six trigonometric ratios associated with an angle: sine, cosine, tangent, cotangent, secant, and cosecant. These are especially useful in determining unknown angles or the sides of triangles based upon known trigonometric ratios. In antiquity, trigonometrywas used with considerable success by surveyors and astronomers.
The calculus discovered in the 17th century by
In the 19th century, in response to questions about its rigorous foundations, the calculus was developed in terms of a theory of limits. Analysis—differential and integral calculus—was subsequently approached even more rigorously by those who sought to establish its results by strictly arithmetic means. This required an exact definition of the continuity of the real numbers. Others extended the power of analysis with very general theories of measure.
Analysis gives primary emphasis to functions, convergence of sequences, series, continuity, differentiability, and questions about the completeness of the real numbers. Introductory courses in calculus generally include study of logarithms, exponential functions, trigonometric functions, and transcendental functions.
Complex analysis extends the methods of analysis from real to complex variables. Complex numbers first arose to permit general solutions to algebraic equations. They take the form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers. The variable a is called the real part of the number; b, the imaginary part of the number; and i represents the complex, or “imaginary,” number signified by the square root of –1. Because complex numbers have two independent components, a and b, they are especially useful in applications whenever two variables must be treated simultaneously. For example, complex analysis has proven particularly valuable in applications to fluid dynamics, where bothpressure and velocity vary from point to point. Complex numbers were made more acceptable to many in the 19th century when they were given a geometric interpretation.
It has been said that any unsolved mathematical problem that is over a century old and is still considered interesting belongs to number theory. This branch of mathematics involves the study of the properties of numbers and the structure of different number systems. It is concerned with integers, or whole numbers. Many problems in number theory deal with prime numbers. These are integers larger than 1 that have only themselves and 1 as factors.
Questions about highest common factors, least common multiples, decompositions into primes, and the representation of natural numbers in certain forms as well as their divisibility are all the province of number theory. Computers have recently been applied to the solution of certain number-theory problems.
Probability Theory and Statistics
The branch of mathematics concerned with the analysis of random phenomena is called probability theory. The entire set of possible outcomes of a random event is called the sample space. Each outcome in this space is assigned a probability, a number indicating the likelihood that the particular event will arise in a single instance. An example of a random experiment isthe tossing of a coin. The sample space consists of the two outcomes, heads or tails, and the probability assigned to each isone half.
Statistics applies probability theory to real cases and involves theanalysis of empirical data. The word statistics reflects the original application of mathematical methods to data collected for purposes of the state. Such studies led to general techniquesfor analyzing data and computing various values, drawing correlations, using methods of sampling, counting, estimating, and ranking data according to certain criteria.
Created in the 19th century by the German mathematician Georg Cantor, set theory was originally meant to provide techniques for the mathematical analysis of the infinite. Set theory deals with theproperties of well-defined collections of objects. Sets may be finite or infinite. A finite set has a definite number of members; such a set might consist of all the integers from 1 to 1,000. An infinite set has an endless number of members. For example, allof the positive integers compose an infinite set.
Cantor developed a theory of infinite numbers and transfinite arithmetic to go along with them. His ‘Continuum Hypothesis' conjectures that the set of all real numbers is the second smallest infinite set. The smallest infinite set is composed of the integers or any set equivalent to it.
Early in the 20th century certain contradictions of set theory concerning infinite sets, transfinite numbers, and purely logical paradoxes brought about attempts to axiomatize set theory in hopes of eliminating such difficulties. When Kurt Gödel showed that, for any axiomatic system, propositions could be devised thatwere neither true nor false, it seemed that the traditional certainty of mathematics had been suddenly lost.
In the 1960s Paul Cohen succeeded in showing the independence of the ‘Continuum Hypothesis', namely that it could be neither proved nor disproved within a given axiomatization of set theory. This meant that it was possible to contemplate non-Cantorian set theories in which the ‘Continuum Hypothesis' might be negated, much as non-Euclidean geometries treat geometry without assuming the necessary validity of Euclid's parallel postulate.
Logic is the study of the way in which valid conclusions may be drawn from given premises. It was first treated systematically by Aristotle and later developed in terms of an algebra of logic. Symbolic logic arose from traditional logic by using symbols to stand for propositions and relations between them. Modern logicians use algebraic and formal methods to study the relations between logical propositions. This has led to model theory and model logic.
It has been said that, next to the Bible, the ‘Elements' of Euclid is the most-translated, -published, and -studied book in the Western world. Of the author himself almost nothing is known. It is recorded that he founded and taughtat a school of mathematics in
To compile his ‘Elements'
(476–550?), Indian astronomer and mathematician. Aryabhata I was the earliest Hindu mathematician whose work and history are available to modern scholars, and he was one of the first to use algebra. In 499 he finished the Aryabhatiya, summarizing mathematics as known in his time. Most of this work deals with astronomy and spherical trigonometry; the remainder consists of 33 rules of arithmetic, algebra, and plane trigonometry. He also created a table of sines and worked with indeterminate equations.
(1887–1920). The Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan made profound contributions to the theory of numbers. He was the first Indian to be elected to the Royal Society of London, and when he died he was widely recognized by mathematicians as a phenomenal genius.
Ramanujan was born on
In 1911 he published the first of his papers in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society. His genius gained recognition, leading to a special scholarship from the
Ramanujan's knowledge of mathematics (most of which he had worked out for himself) was startling. Although almost completely ignorant of what had been developed, his mastery of certain areas of mathematics was unequaled by any living mathematician. He had only the vaguest idea, however, of what constitutes a mathematicalproof. Some of his theorems on the theory of prime numbers, though brilliant, were completely wrong. In 1917 Ramanujan contracted tuberculosis. He returned to
(1114–85?), Indian mathematician. Bhaskara II was born in 1114 in
(580? BC–500? BC). The man who played a crucial role in formulating principles that influenced Plato and Aristotle was the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras. He founded the Pythagorean brotherhood, a group of his followers whose beliefs and ideas were rediscovered during the Renaissance and contributed to the development of mathematics and Western rational philosophy.
Pythagoras was born in about 580 BC on the
Because none of the writings of Pythagoras have survived, it is difficult to distinguish his teachings from those of his disciples. Among the basic tenets of the Pythagoreans arethe beliefs that reality, at its deepest level, is mathematicalin nature; that philosophy can be used for spiritual purification; that the soul can rise to union with the divine; and that certain symbols have a mystical significance. Pythagoras is generally credited with the theory of the functional significance of numbers in the objective world and in music. His followers are credited with the development of the Pythagorean theorem in geometry andthe application of number relationships to music theory, acoustics, and astronomy.
(1596–1650). Both modern philosophy and modern mathematics began with the work of René Descartes. His analytic method of thinking focused attentionon the problem of how we know, which has occupied philosophers ever since. His invention of coordinate geometry prepared the way for advances in mathematics. Descartes offered one of the first modern theories to account for the origin of the solar system of the Earth.
René Descartes was born on
In 1619 Descartes arrived at the conclusion that the universe has a mathematically logical structure and that a single method of reasoning could apply to all natural sciences, providing a unified body of knowledge. He believed he had discovered such a method by breaking a problem down into parts, accepting as true only clear, distinct ideas that could not be doubted, and systematically deducing one conclusion from another.
Descartes soon gave up army life. Living on private means, he spent several years traveling and applying his analytical system to mathematics and science. Finding, however, that the sciences rested on disputed philosophical ideas, he determined to discover a first principle, which could not be doubted, on which to build knowledge. Retiring to seclusion in
Descartes's major writings on methodology and philosophy were his ‘Discourse on Method' (published in 1637) and ‘Meditations' (1641). His application of algebra to geometry appeared in his ‘Geometry' (1637). He also published works on his studies in natural science.
Descartes's work brought him both fame and controversy. In 1649 he was invited to teach philosophy to the queen of
(1707–83). The Swiss mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler not only made important contributions to the subjects of geometry, calculus, mechanics, and number theory but also developed methods for solving problems in observa- tional astronomy. A founder of pure mathematics, he also demonstrated useful applications of mathematics in technology and public affairs.
Euler was born in
The mathematician J.L. Lagrange, rather than Euler, is often regarded as the greatest mathematician of the 18th century. But Euler never has been excelled either in productivity or in the skillful and imaginative use of computational devices for solving problems.
(1601–65). One of the leading mathematicians of the 17th century was the Frenchman Pierre de Fermat. His work was all the more remarkable because mathematics was only his hobby. His profession was law. Independently of his great contemporary, René Descartes, he discovered the fundamental principles of analytic geometry. He is alsoregarded as the inventor of differential calculus, and in association with Blaise Pascal, he was a cofounder of the theory of probability.
Pierre de Fermat is reported to have been born on Aug. 17, 1601, in
SIR ISAAC NEWTON
(1642–1727). The chief figure of the scientific revolution of the 17th century was Sir Isaac Newton. He was a physicist and mathematician who laid the foundations of calculus, extended the understanding of color and light, studied the mechanics of planetary motion, and discovered the law of gravitation. His work established the commonly held scientific view of the world until Albert Einstein underminedit in the early 20th century (see Einstein).
Isaac Newton was born on Dec. 25, 1642, in Woolsthorpe,
Newton's experiments with light showed that white light passed through a prism broke up into a wide color band, called a spectrum. Passed through another prism, the color band became white light again. Next he passed a single color through a prism. It remained unchanged. From this he concluded that white light is a mixture of pure colors. He also formulated the corpuscular theory of light, which states that light is made up of tiny particles, or corpuscles, traveling in straight lines at great speeds. (See also Color; Light; Optics.)
The general law of gravitation arose from
In mathematics, Newton used the concepts of time and infinity to calculate the slopes of curves and the areas under curves. His fluxional method—later known as calculus—was developed in 1669 but was not published until 1704 (see Calculus).
Newton continued his scientific research when he was appointed professor of mathematics at Cambridge in 1669. Three years later he invented the reflecting telescope (see Telescope). In 1687 he published his major work, ‘Principia' (Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), setting forth the theory of gravitation. He also served a term in Parliament.
In 1696 Newton was appointed warden of the mint. At that time a complete recoinage and standardization of coins was taking place. When the project was completed in 1699, he was made master of the mint. He was elected president of the Royal Society in 1703 and was knighted in 1705. Newton died in London on March 20, 1727, and was the first scientist to be honored with burial in Westminster Abbey.
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