Sir Isaac Newton, English mathematician and physicist, 1666.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Stipple engraving by Meadows made in 1809 after a painting by George Romney, 1796. An imaginary romanticised scene of Newton's (1642-1727) light-splitting experiment of 1666 when he would have been in his early 20s. Newton is shown holding a prism in a beam of light, the spectrum reflected on the wall behind. In 1669 Newton became Lucasian Profesor of Mathematics. His theories, published in 'The Mathematical Principle of Natural Philosophy' (1687), exerted a huge influence on science. They included the three laws of motion, the theory of gravitation and the law of cooling. Newton also discovered the binomial theorem and differential calculus. His work was unique, pointing physics in a new direction and giving mathematical expresion to physical phenomena.