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Newton's Dark Secrets

Program Overview

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Newton NOVA presents the life and science of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), one of the greatest scientists who ever lived.

The program:

  • chronicles Newton's upbringing in the early part of the Scientific Revolution.

  • recounts Newton's attendance at Trinity College at Cambridge University in England, where he studied the latest scientific ideas, and his return to his hometown of Woolsthorpe four years later when the plague struck Cambridge.

  • reviews the advances Newton made in gravity, calculus, and the composition of light while he was at Woolsthorpe.

  • relates Newton's return to Cambridge, where he was appointed the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a chair currently held by physicist Stephen Hawking.

  • reports how Newton solved the problem of chromatic aberration in refracting telescopes by designing and building a reflecting telescope based on mirrors rather than lenses.

  • recounts Newton's election to the Royal Society and details the contentious relationship between Newton and fellow society member Robert Hooke, who accused Newton of stealing his ideas.

  • explores Newton's interests in alchemy and religion.

  • explains Newton's concepts of the inverse square law, the laws of motion, and gravity.

  • describes the 1687 publication of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, a work generally acknowledged as the greatest scientific book ever written.

  • relates how Newton had what some believe was a nervous breakdown; following his recovery, he takes a job as warden of the Mint in London.

  • reports how Newton published his second great work, Opticks, the year after Hooke died.

  • concludes by noting how, more than 250 years after his death, a new picture of Newton—as scientist, alchemist, and theologian—is emerging.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Newton's Dark Secrets
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