Calculus is used in many fields, including physics, chemistry, biology, economics, pure mathematics, and all branches of engineering. It is not an exaggeration to say that Newton’s insight into the development of calculus revolutionized our ability to pursue new fields of science and engineering. But did you know when Isaac Newton came up with the idea?
Isaac Newton, at the age of 24, was sent home from school to avoid the bubonic plague. He invented calculus during this time.
Isaac Newton and Coming Up with the Concept of Calculus
First and foremost, you must understand who Isaac Newton was and why he was and continues to be so influential. He was a prominent 17th-century physicist, mathematician, and cosmologist. He is most famous for developing the laws of motion and universal gravitation. His impact cannot be overstated.
One of his many accomplishments was the development of calculus. His physics work undoubtedly brought him to this issue, and he felt compelled to solve it using a new mathematical framework that did not exist at the time. His interest in gravity and laws of motion is linked to his calculus breakthrough.
Newton first attempted to describe the speed of a falling object. He discovered that the speed of a falling object increases every second, but there was no mathematical explanation for this. Newton saw a void that needed to be filled in the field of mathematics because the issue of movement and the rate of change had yet to be explored to any significant degree. He started working on it immediately, incorporating planetary ellipses into his theory to try to explain the planets’ orbits.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is another mathematician who worked extensively on using numbers to describe nature and motion. There was a disagreement between the two men about who invented calculus first and who was the actual inventor.
Although Leibniz developed important symbols that aid in comprehending mathematical concepts, Newton’s work was completed about eight years before Leibniz’s. Both men made significant contributions to mathematics in general and calculus in particular. Since then, the concept has evolved even further. (Source: Math Tutor DVD)
What were Calculus’ Contributions to Society?
He discovered that by using calculus, he could explain how planets moved and why their orbits were elliptical. Newton found that the gravitational force that holds us to the ground is the same force that causes the planets to orbit the Sun and the Moon to orbit Earth.
All of this demonstrates that Newton’s idea of calculus and its emphasis on the rate of change fed into his previous work. His already strong conceptual understanding of physics and movement aided him.
It was a moderate departure from his previous work. This best exemplifies the direct link between the fields of mathematics and physics. At least for Newton, the two went hand in hand. Newton founded Calculus on rates of change, and his revised theory was published in 1676. The impact of Isaac Newton and his invention of calculus on the world is immeasurable. (Source: Math Tutor DVD)
Image from NewScientist