December 25 – Birth of Sir Isaac Newton (1642)

Where do you start?

As Christmas presents to the human race go, this one has to be up there in the top three. Isaac Newton is widely considered to be one of the most important scientific brains of all time. His three laws of motion would have been enough on their own for him to be celebrated everywhere, but add universal gravitation to the mix and you’ve got a genius on your hands. Then throw in calculus and it starts looking like God was seeing how much he could fit into one head.

Newton was born on December 25th 1642, and then again on January 4th 1643 (not really – we need to remember that there were two calendars in use at the time: the old Julian calendar was still around, running ten days behind the new Gregorian calendar we use now).

Newton was born in the village of Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth in Lincolnshire, England. The house of his birth, to where he returned in 1666 while Cambridge University was closed following an unfortunate outbreak of the plague, still stands, and is in the hands of the National Trust. The house still contains the apple tree which it is alleged gave Sir Isaac the idea for a force of gravity.

Today’s photo is of the memorial to Newton in Westminster Abbey. It is not where he is buried, but it’s pretty close.

Various lists of the most influencial and important scientists of all time have given the top spot to either Newton or Einstein. I suppose it depends on your point of view. Newton himself was modest regarding his achievements, but that could be because he was too clever to boast, just in case.