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Certainly one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, Isaac Newton (1642-1727) had a profound impact on astronomy, physics, and mathematics. Born prematurely and after his fatherís death, Newton had a difficult childhood. His mother remarried when he was just three, and he was then sent to live with his grandparents. After his stepfather died, his mother brought him home to Woolsthorpe in Lincolnshire, where she wanted him to become a farmer. An uncle recognized his scholarly talents, however, and he eventually made it to Trinity College in Cambridge.

       Many of his great ideas came in 1665-66, when he spent time back at Woolsthorpe while Cambridge was closed because of the plague. Among his many achievements were the invention of the reflecting telescopeóthe basic design behind all large telescopes used today; the invention of a branch of mathematics known as calculus, a critical tool throughout science; the elucidation of the three laws of motion; and the development of the law of universal gravitation. Until the coming of general relativity in the 20th century, Newtonís theories were the basis for all cosmological models. When still in his mid-twenties, he was named Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridgeóthe post now held by Stephen Hawking.

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