Today is Christmas Day. No surprises there. But to add a slightly more scientific flavour to 25 December, did you know that today is also the birthday of arguably the greatest scientist that ever lived – Sir Isaac Newton (25 Dec 1642 – 20 Mar 1727).
A physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist and theologian, the importance and influence of Newton on science as we know it can hardly be overstated. Newton provided the foundation of mechanics with his description of universal gravitation and his three laws of motion. He shares the credit (with Gottfried Leibnitz) for developing the mathematical field of differential and integral calculus. He published, in 1687, one of the most important books in science, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (‘Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy’) – a book not only fundamental because of its content, but also because of the clear style it was written in; a style still setting the standards for scientific publication today.
Beyond the above, he also made fundamental contributions to a disparate range of fields including astronomy, optics and many more – too much to even consider covering with a single blog post.
Newton was also a deeply religious man, so I’m sure he must have considered being born on Christmas day a most amusing coincidence. If ever there was a scientist deserving of some form of sainthood, surely it must be him.
So, on this day, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and lots of good science – theoretically robust and ethically sound, according to the example of Sir Isaac Newton.