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Not So Egocentric Isaac

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

This post is a continuation to my previous post egocentric Isaac. I admire Isaac Newton, not only for his groundbreaking work as a teenager, but for his fearless attitude towards those who were on a higher pedestal than him. One such person was Robert Hooke, who was at-least seven year's senior to Newton and was a renowned scientist of the time. In 1663, Hooke was accepted into the royal society and was its first curator, in-charge of all experiments. He was allotted the task of bringing portrayals of things he observed with his microscope to the weekly meetings they held at the society. He was possibly the first individual to have conducted ample use of the microscope to understand the world of small things. The royal society authorized an entire book in 1665, Micrographia, based on his impressive work on enlarged insects. He also included a theory of the nature of light and colors in the book. According to him light arose through movement and that everything that was shining was vibrating in some way. He also expressed that there were two colors - red and blue, When pulses of light come in contact with the eye, according to him these two color perceptions were created. He also stated that," It would take a little too long to explain all of that in detail and to prove what kind of movement is responsible. It would take too long to insert how i found out the characteristics of light."


Now, considering that statement from a renowned scientist such as Robert Hooke, one would believe him. But, Newton wasn't in that category. His reaction to Hooke's view was hostile. And there was no reason you could disagree with Newton's behavior, the dude had stuck a needle through his pupil to figure out how light works and found its characteristics. He asserted that Hooke's theory was not correct, it was obvious for him to react to other people who hadn't conducted experiments and who lacked constructive evidence to prove what are the real characteristics of light. And so, there was the beginning one of many feuds in Newtons life time. To be honest, he was way ahead of Hooke from the scientific research perspective. And its probably wise to argue that in this case his anger would have transcended in the same manner if it was any other person. For instance, in 1679 Hooke shared his idea of explaining the motion of planets by a force of attraction whose strength changes with distances, well Newton had the same idea back in 1666 and he even ended up deducing it mathematically. That's how ahead Newton went, but his nature of not indulging with the public to discuss his ideas made it a little difficult for people to discover the intellect that he had, in a time where even the quantities such as mass, momentum, velocity... weren't yet objectively deduced. Even Newton's Principia starts off by exemplifying names to the different quantities in nature.


Backtracking to the characteristic of light, Hooke asserted that he himself had already carried out the experiment that Newton had expressed in his work. He also made an accusation that Newton had falsely interpreted the findings from the experiments. Newton was angered by all of it, considering the man was ahead of his time, he had no patience to wait until people could grasp his findings. They would consider them as just hypotheses, which offended Newton by a great deal. Since, he had developed a lot of mathematics and physics apart from his theory on optics (which was and is mostly correct), it turns out he was outraged on various fronts with regard to how people interpreted his work.


The conflict prolonged with Hooke exclaiming that light consisted of waves, while Newton thought it was a current of particles. Hooke stated that he had done an experiment that showed the wave nature of light. While, Newton explained that this experiment had been carried out by other scientist's much earlier and Hooke shouldn't call it as his experiment. Hooke accused Newton of having copied ideas from his articles and that he hadn't mentioned the source. The quarrel continued and the question of the true nature of light wasn't answered until a century later, when quantum mechanics was established, proving the duality of light. Anyway, the feud definitely left Hooke on the losing side, with Newton's mathematical approach to things being more valuable, he described them in his book Opticks in 1704. For what Newton was, he never could handle criticism and that is one of the reason why he did not reveal most of his thoughts on gravity, considering that the latter was still uncertain in that time, until about 230 years later with the advent of Einstein.


Compared to the last post about his feud with Flamsteed, when put on a timeline this feud fall before that one. Where Newton had all the power with regards to him being the president of the royal society, giving him an ego boost. However, in this incident Newton never intended to be in the limelight. He was the king of nerds, it was only after his entry into the royal society that he began to indulge in other activities, such as his role in catching hold of William Chaloner. The feud with Hooke was when he was not so egocentric.



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