Isaac Newton was the chief architect of the modern world. He answered
the ancient philosophical riddles of light and motion; he effectively discovered
gravity; he salvaged the terms ?time?, ?space?, ?motion? and ?place? from
the haze of everyday language, standardized them and married them, each
to the other, constructing an edifice that made knowledge a thing of substance:
quantative and exact. Creation, Newton demonstrated, unfolds from simple
rules, patterns iterated over unlimited distances.
What Newton learned remains the essence of what we know. Newton?s laws
are our laws. When we speak of momentum, of forces and masses, we are seeing
the world as Newtonians. When we seek mathematical laws for economic cycles
and human behaviour, we stand on Newton?s shoulders. Our very deeming the
universe as solvable is his legacy.
This was the achievement of a reclusive professor, recondite theologian
and fervent alchemist. A man who feared the light of exposure, shrank from
controversy and seldom published his work. In his daily life he emulated
the complex secrecy in which he saw the riddles of the universe encoded.
His vision of nature was of its time; he never purged occult, hidden, mystical
qualities. But he pushed open a door that led to a new universe.
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