Newton, Sir Isaac by Faye Huntington

"Every body in nature attracts every other body with a force directly as its mass and inversely as the square of its distance." This has been called "The magnificent theory of universal gravitation which was the crowning glory of Newton's life." I doubt not many of you have struggled manfully with this law as laid down in your school-books, and, having conquered it, and fixed the principle in your minds to stay, you may like to know something about the philosopher himself. In 1642, a puny, sickly baby was supposed to be moaning away its young life in Lincolnshire, England.

This child's name was Isaac Newton. He belonged to a country gentleman's family. His father having died, his mother's second marriage occasioned the giving of the child into the care of his grandmother. As he grew older he gained in health and was sent to school. Having inherited a small estate, as soon as he had acquired an education which was considered sufficient to enable him to attend to the duties of one in his position, he was removed from school and entrusted with the management of his estate. However, this young Newton developed a passion for mathematical studies which led him to neglect the business connected with his estate. He busied himself in the construction of toys illustrating the principles of mechanics. These were not the clumsy work which might be expected from the hands of a schoolboy, but were finished with exceeding care and delicacy. It is said there is still in existence two at least of these toys; one is an hour-glass kept in the rooms of the Royal Society in London.

Isaac Newton's mother was a wise woman in that she did not discourage his desire for the pursuing of his studies and for investigation. She did not say, "Now, my son, you must put away these notions and attend to your business. You have a property here which it is your duty to manage and enjoy. You should find satisfaction in your position as a country squire and consider that you have no need of further study." On the contrary, this mother allowed her son to continue his studies; he was prepared for and entered the college at Cambridge when he was eighteen. From that period until his death, at eighty-five, he devoted himself unweariedly to mathematical and philosophical studies.

You all know the story of the falling apple. He had been driven by the plague in London to spend some time at his country-seat in Woolstrop, and while resting one day in his garden he saw an apple fall to the ground. Suddenly the question occurred, "Why should the apple fall to the ground? Why, when detached from the branch, did it not fly off in some other direction?"

And where do you suppose he found the answer? Read the first sentence of this article and see if you find it there! The truth had been the controlling power of all the falling apples since the creation, but it had never before been understood or formulated; perhaps this discovery of the law of universal gravitation gave him more renown than all his other labors put together.

He met with a sad misfortune, later, when, by the accidental upsetting of a lighted candle, the work of twenty years was destroyed. The story as told by a biographer is, that Sir Isaac left his pet dog alone in his study for a few moments, when the candle was overturned amongst the papers on the study table. It is further told as an evidence of the calmness and patience of the great man, that he only said, "Ah! Fido, you little know of the mischief you have done!"

But although he was so quiet under the great loss, the trial was almost too much for him; for a time his health seemed to give way, and his mental powers suffered from the effects of the shock. He died in 1725, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.