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What level of mathematics did Newton know when he made his discoveries

  1. Mar 31, 2014 #1
    When Isaac Newton discovered the theory of gravity, which is very simple, yet fundamental in its premise: The product of two masses and some scale factor divided by the square of the distance between them gives the force of said masses in Newtons. Am I right to assume Newton only knew of Algebra and Calculus on a high school level, perhaps calculus III, when he made this discovery? Had Newton lived today then would he be as prolific in his discoveries? Is a great mind always great or was he simply in the right era at the right time for his discoveries?

    There are lot of scientists advancing branches of mathematics and physics in these times, yet none of them are regarded as geniuses in respect to Newton or Einstein. Most people haven't heard of their names because their work, albeit complex, is only conjecture and incredibly obscure relative to the theory of Gravity, which has been proven many times in many ways. So given that we know of gravity through Newton and Einstein, in what field will the next prolific genius be in? What will his work consist of? Will the general public be able to comprehend his work as we can intuitively understand Newton's and some of Einstein's or will only those with expertise, PhDs, Masters, be able to understand it?

    Newton's work is irreducibly simple, yet overwhelming complex. It's simple because the formula is so elegant and understandable to many people outside of academia. Yet, it's complex because only a genius could make the observations Newton did at the times he lived. But then Einstein came along and added an extra dimension to Newton's discovery, which effectively made any subsequent work inaccessible to the general public, like the emergence of Quantum Physics. To understand the mathematics of discovery we have today, you will need a college degree and a lot of experience behind you.

    When will our discoveries stop? Like I said, what is the next big discovery waiting to happen in Science and will we all be able to understand it like we can Newton's work.? Or to put it another way, what will someone have to discover to be up there with Newton and Einstein, remembered from generation to the next?
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2014 #2
    No. Newton didn't know anything about calculus. He invented calculus in order to solve his problem.
  4. Mar 31, 2014 #3
    'Invented' or 'Discovered'? Two very different things and only one of them applies here. Are you positing Calculus doesn't exist outside of human thought? What am I trying to say... Was calculus incidental to human consciousness, or is it woven into the nature of reality? Should another intelligence come along and observe our reality, would their ideas converge on a calculus model? I guess so given that both Leibniz and Newton discovered calculus independently of each other but they are both human. What are the chances of another kind of intelligence discovering calculus as we know it. Having said this, if Newton did invent rather than discover calculus, then there are other ways for which problems involving motion can be approached and solved? But then, is calculus the most efficient of all potential methods given that it's been with us now since the 17th century?
  5. Mar 31, 2014 #4
    He needed something to express the orbit of Mercury around the Sun, so he invented calculus for that purpose. At the time he invented it for himself, so it means little if he ACTUALLY invented it or discovered it or what ever wordgame you prefer, fact is, he invented it for himself - the legal copyright gibberish excluded.
  6. Mar 31, 2014 #5


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    And this thread is probably going to be closed in 3,2,1...
  7. Mar 31, 2014 #6
  8. Mar 31, 2014 #7
    Reason for lock:

    This is philosophy so not allowed.
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