Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer



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St. Ignatius High School – Physics/Honors Physics

Study Guide for: “Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer”


This book is a biography of Isaac Newton and, in addition, introduces some concepts in physics. Required reading will be chapter one through and including chapter ten. If you’re inspired you are certainly welcome to read more. If you’re interested in the shootout between Newton and Liebniz as to whom was the first to invent Calculus, then read chapter 13.


The following questions are meant as a guide to point out the salient features in Newton’s life and work and some key discoveries in math and physics (you don’t need to answer them formally or hand anything in). They may or may not appear on the book test at the beginning of the year (and the test is not necessarily limited to these). Look them over before you read each chapter. They are sequential in the story.

Chapter 1: Desertion
Isaac Newton, Sr. and Hannah Ayscough - Newton’s parents - were married (and young Newton subsequently born) during an unstable period in England’s history (I’d like to know when England was, in fact, stable). What occurred during this time in England’s colorful history?
On what interesting day was young Isaac born?
Isaac, Jr. was separated from his mother at an early age. What affect did this have on him?
What were his feelings towards his stepfather? (Look for comments from “Fitzwilliam’s Notebook”)
In what way does Newton’s relationship with his mother affect his view of women?
Was Newton a good student in school? (Don’t let this answer influence you!)
Define “autodidact”
On page 20 it goes over Newton’s background in math when he entered Cambridge. What was it and why is what he accomplished impressive?
Later on that page it describes a book Newton found interesting. What was it about? (This forms some of his interests later)
What “shop” did young Isaac find fascinating and what struck his interest? (This, too, proved to be one of his interests)
Chapter 2: The Changing View of Matter and Energy
What does the author consider Newton’s “greatest achievement”?
What ancient philosophy prevailed up until Newton’s time? What was Democritus’ contribution?
Define a “syllogism”
Plato, Aristotle’s teacher, actively disliked what aspect of science?
The author says this type of thinking leads to a distorted picture of reality. That’s because the ancients based their thinking upon what type of logic?
On page 32 the modern scientific method is expostulated. Know the general outline of it.
What concepts did Leonardo da Vinci anticipate before Galileo and Newton?
Why was Galileo’s work revolutionary?
In 1590, who actually pre-dated Galileo in showing that two objects dropped simultaneously fall at the same rate? And what was the method?
Galileo found that a falling body moves with a speed proportional to ______ (?)
Why was he unable to develop an equation for this experiment?
What were Galileo’s thoughts on the relation between a falling object and a ball rolling down an inclined plane?
Ultimately, what was Galileo’s view of Aristotle’s idea of the “Unmoved Mover”?
What is Descartes famous for? (mathematics)
Who was the last of the major 17th century figures to influence Isaac Newton?

This man was also the first to formulate what type of “reasoning”?


What was the “modus operandi” for the Scientific Revolution?

Chapter 3: Academia
On page 49, a paragraph offers insight into his personality. Be able to summarize these comments.
On page 62, what additionally do we learn about Newton’s experience in math?
Chapter 4: Astronomy and Mathematics before Newton
The Earth’s circumference and the distance to the Sun were measured by the ancient Greeks. Who measured them and what were these values?
There is a descriptive mathematical term (named for a Greek) for the three-dimensional space in which we perceive the universe…it is:
What astronomical idea were the Greeks obsessed with?
To put Earth at the center of the Solar System, Ptolemy had to create an odd system to describe the motion of the planets. What was it?
What was the most difficult planetary problem Ptolemy faced using this system?
What was the one vital and controversial aspect of Copernicus’ work?
Oddly, what was exactly at the center of the Copernicus solar system?
Why was Copernicus’s treatise “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” one of the least successful books ever written? (!!)
To what types of algebraic equations were the Babylonians limited to?
What are more powerful algebraic equations?
What year were logarithms developed and by whom?
Kepler inherited and studied Tycho Brahe’s astronomical data – discrepancies in the data led Kepler to conclude the orbits were not circular but _______________.
Know Kepler’s three laws.
The “gradient” of a line is what we call the “________ “?

Chapter 5: A Toe in the Water
What event drove Newton to the countryside?
What fateful (and probably untrue) event happened to Newton in the town of Woolsthorpe?

Newton’s seminal work, the Principia, was finally written (published) in what year?


Newton conducted research that he tried to keep hidden. What type of research was this and why did he try to hide it?
Be able to finish these statements:
Universal gravity is the principle that ______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
Differentiation is a method of finding ______________________________
Integration leads the mathematician to ______________________________
In one of the first thought experiments, a stone is pictured as whirling around on the end of a string above one’s head. Christian Huygens named two forces that act on a stone. Be able to name those two forces: a) b)
In the inverse square relationship that Newton explored for planetary motion, if planet A orbits the Sun at one distance, another planet B (of equal mass) orbiting at 2x the distance will experience a receding force ______________ of that of planet A.
What was the period of revolution for the Moon that Newton was able to use?
Newton’s first attempt to calculate the inverse square law was incorrect. What data was wrong? How did he correct it?
Chapter 6: The Search for the Philosophers Stone

Who was Hermes Trismegistus?


Aristotle’s four elements (earth, water, fire, air) had particular characteristics.
Two concepts, the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life, originated from what country?
With the decline of Rome, how did science get back into western Europe during the eleventh century?
Albertus Magnus (a Dominican friar) is often thought of as a “wizard”, but much of that reputation came after he passed away. Who was his pupil?
For some time alchemy was outlawed in Britain. Both the Church and secular authorities were against it. What were the reasons given by the author for its banishment?
At the bottom of page 123 the book describes a recipe used in alchemy. What is dangerous about this process?
On pages 124-125 what type of apparatus was developed by alchemists and still used today by chemists and others?
During the thirteenth century what material did Roger Bacon discover that the ancient Chinese also knew about?


Chapter 7: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
What store did Newton spend a great deal of time in during his childhood?
Newton latinised his name spelling it “Isaacus Neuutonus” which allowed him what anagram? (if this doesn’t give you an idea of his ego, stop reading the book)
A number of Newton’s papers were destroyed in a fire, and some have suggested the destroyed papers were an early version of what book by Newton?
To what heretical branch of Christianity did Isaac Newton belong? (Heretical to the both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches)

Chapter 8: Feuds
During the mid-1660’s Newton demonstrated that white light was composed of…?
The first of his new experiments was called (in Latin):
Newton found that if he allowed only light from one end of the spectrum (blue light) to pass through the system, it was ____________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________


So we can say blue light “refracts”, or bends, more than _____ light.
Newton presented what type of telescope to the royal Society in London in 1671?

(It is now called a “Newtonian” telescope)


Know how to define “chromatic aberration”
Newton published a work called “The Theory of Light and Colors”. What made it different from other publications in the Royal Society Transactions?
On page 175 the author compares Newton’s personality to Robert Hooke’s. How do they fare?
Why did Hooke not like Newton’s “Theory of Light and Colors?
Page 182: Newton is the first to apply what method fully?
In a footnote in this chapter it describes Newton’s idea on light and Hooke’s idea on light. What are the differences and what is the modern view of light?
Newton is often credited with this quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants”. This is often interpreted as crediting his discoveries to those who came before him. How does the author see this quote? (If you’ve gotten this far, you know Newton and Hooke were not the best of friends)

Chapter 9: To the Principia

Newton made an error in a paper he had written. What was that error? (It had to do with falling objects)


Hooke, himself, made an important discovery about falling objects. What type of path do they follow as they fall to the Earth?
Descartes had an interesting philosophy on gravity. Be aware of the content of his analysis.
Name the four fundamental forces in nature in modern Physics?
From Johannes Kepler and his third law we find out what interesting fact about the speed of planets in their orbits around the Sun. How do they move at closest approach and furthest distance?
Newton’s ideas on the “ether” (a now-rejected concept involving a material that fills the void of space) was very astute. In his own writing he considered that if the ether existed at all it was largely ________?
Newton’s great accomplishment was:
Whose two mechanics theories did he unify and what did this open the door to?

Chapter 10: Breakdown

The Principia did far more than gain Newton an international reputation. Summarize the results for yourself.


What religion was discriminated against at Cambridge? What were Newton’s own feelings towards this religion?
Newton opened up to John Locke about his personal beliefs – something he rarely did - revealing what?
The author presents some circumstantial evidence that Newton may have had a close relationship with two men. Who were they and what were the circumstances of their relationship?
In the late 1970’s two researchers tested a sample of Newton’s hair for chemicals. What elements did they find?
List some of Newton’s character flaws and the occurrences in his life that may have contributed to these. How should history judge Newton? How would you judge Newton?


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