Excerpt from

"I can't imagine Trinity without you, Dr. Barrow," Isaac remarked. "Who would ever take your place?"
"I have chosen a successor already," Dr. Barrow answered. "I have chosen you to take the job as Lucasian Professor."

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ISAAC NEWTON- Scientist and Christian Part 4

A Character story about diligence.

Isaac had been studying at home during the years of the Black Death in England. During this time he discovered many important ideas in mathematics and science. One day an apple fell from a tree and hit his work table. As he picked up the apple, he looked at the moon and got an idea. "Maybe the moon stays in orbit for the same reason this apple fell down- gravity." This was a brand new idea. Others said that the laws in space were different from those on earth. But Isaac knew that God made both and he felt that they both followed the same laws.
Though some laughed at Isaac's new ideas, Dr. Barrow, his teacher, believed in him. And after two years, the Black Death left, and Trinity college reopened. Nine openings arose in the school as a teaching student. Isaac was accepted as one of them!
Now Isaac began to do experiments with light. Up to this time, most everyone believed that sunlight was pure light and contained no color at all. However, with a simple experiment, Isaac proved this to be false. "Watch this," he said to his roommate John Wickins. "When I hold this prism up to the sunlight, it casts a colored spectrum on the wall. This proves that sunlight contains all colors." But when he showed it to other scientists, many laughed, saying, "The prism is creating the light. I still believe that sunlight is without color." Today we know that Isaac was correct. In fact, spectrum rings are sometimes called 'Newton's rings.'
Isaac also made a new telescope that was better than any of the 6 feet ones, though it was only 6 inches long! Students and professors came to look through his telescope at night. Isaac would remind them, "The heavens declare the glory of God." (Psalm 19:1)
When Isaac finished his education at Trinity, he learned that Dr. Barrow would be leaving to give his full time to studying the Bible. "I can't imagine Trinity without you, Dr. Barrow," Isaac remarked. "Who would ever take your place?"
"I have chosen a successor already," Dr. Barrow answered. "I have chosen you to take the job as Lucasian Professor."
"Me?!" Isaac stood speechless. How could he measure up to the great and beloved Dr. Barrow? Isaac was now 27. Though the offer was a great honour, it included a great disappointment as well. All the professors were single. To accept it meant he must call off his engagement to Catherine.
"I knew this was coming," she told him when he announced the offer. "You were made by God to do great things for the world. I could not be selfish and keep you from that." A few months later, Catherine married another man.
During the next years, Isaac taught the new students and also did many experiments and made many models. He would get so wrapped up in his work that he would at times do strange things. Once someone stopped him on the way to supper and talked with him. When he finished he went back to his room and forgot he hadn't eaten! His lectures (held just once a week) were often too deep to understand. One time a student arrived and found he was alone in the class. Isaac delivered the lecture just the same, and didn't even seem to notice he had only one student that day!
One day a man named Edmund Halley came to see Isaac. "I am told that your experiments and thoughts are on scraps of paper all over the place. I have come to urge you to collect them in a book. I promise to pay for the printing out of my own pocket."
Isaac reluctantly agreed to this idea and began to write a book containing all that he had discovered so far. He wrote day and night for six months, eating and sleeping little. He chose to write in Latin so that scientists in many different countries could read it. When it was completed, it was not one book but three, which he called Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis, or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Among other things, these books contained the detailed ideas which we call Newton's three laws of motion. Here they are the two most famous ones:
1) a body in motion tends to stay in motion in the same direction and at the same speed, unless acted upon by an outside force. Because of this law, we lean to the right when going around a left corner. When the astronauts traveled to the moon, they did not need to keep pushing their craft through space once it left earth's gravity. It continued to travel at 24,000 miles/hour without using any fuel at all. How this can be is explained in Newton's first law.
3) For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you shoot a gun, for example, the 'kick' of the gun (backward) is directly related to the size and force of the bullet or shot (forward). This is also the law that governs a rocket's force for as the force comes out the bottom of the rocket, the craft travels up (the opposite direction) with the same force.
When Isaac finished the last volume, many called it the greatest scientific work ever written. Some have said that nothing new was discovered for over a hundred years after. But Halley had another question. "You say that the laws of gravity work everywhere in the universe?"
"Of course, because the same God made the earth and universe," Isaac replied.
"Then might it govern comets as well as planets?"
"Of course. It is a universal law," Isaac answered.
"True, planets can be predicted with great accuracy. But comets suddenly appear and then disappear never to be seen again."
"But how do you know they are never seen again?" Isaac asked him. "Perhaps some that appear now are the same ones reappearing. This would be natural if they are traveling in ellipses as the planets do."
Edmund Halley took this idea and began to study a comet that appeared in 1682. He found that a similar bright comet appeared in 1531, 1607 and 1682- exactly 76 years apart. On the basis of what Isaac had told him, Halley suggested that it was not three separate comets but the same comet appearing three times. Further, he predicted that it would appear again in 1758. Though this was 16 years after Halley's death, the comet was right on time and was, of course, named after him- Halley's comet. The last time it appeared was 1986. When is it scheduled to appear again?

We will finish the story of Isaac Newton next week.