**23 Heavy Thinking 1666**
ISAAC NEWTON, one of the brainiest men who ever lived, was also one of the quirkiest. He used his power as president of London's Royal Society to harass rival scientists. He labored over equations up to 22 hours a day. And, most curious in a man exalted as the father of modern science, he had a mania for alchemy.
But his eccentricities pale next to the grandeur of his great discovery, the law of gravitation. For decades, Europe's best minds had been trying to explain the force that held celestial bodies in orbit. In 1666 inspiration struck the 23-year-old Newton when he saw an apple fall from a tree in his mother's yard. The same force pulling the apple earthward, he realized, was also tugging steadily at the moon.
Newton figured out the mathematical formula defining the gravitational pull between two objects. But there were other discoveries as well that would have secured his undying fame. His three basic laws of motion created a foundation for modern physics. He was the first to prove that white light is a mixture of all colors. And calculus, an advanced form of mathematics Newton invented to make calculations of change, is now an essential tool in fields as diverse as economics and space exploration.
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