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