Sir Isaac Newton, English mathematician and physicist, 1702.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Oil on canvas painting. Newton (1642-1727) graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1665. The following year he began his experiments into the nature of light as well as working on his ideas of planetary motion. In 1667 he returned to Cambridge and in 1669 became Lucasian Professor 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 expression to physical phenomena.