Monday, December 17, 2007

Bill Gates

If we are talking creativity and ideas, Bill Gates is an American unoriginal. He is Microsoft's chief and co-founder, he is the world's richest man, and his career delivers this message: It can be wiser to follow than to lead. Let the innovators hit the beaches and take the losses; if you hold back and follow, you can clean up in peace and quiet.

Gates is the Bing Crosby of American technology, borrowing a tune here and a tune there and turning them all into great boffo hits — by dint of heroic feats of repackaging and sheer Herculean blandness. Granted he is (to put it delicately) an unusually hard-driving and successful businessman, but the Bill Gates of our imagination is absurdly overblown.

Yet we have also been unfair to him. Few living Americans have been so resented, envied and vilified, but in certain ways his career is distinguished by decency — and he hasn't got much credit for it. Technology confuses us, throws us off the scent. Where Gates is concerned, we have barked up a lot of wrong trees.

A 1968 photo shows Bill as a rapt young teenager, watching his friend Paul Allen type at a computer terminal. Allen became a co-founder of Microsoft. The child Gates has neat hair and an eager, pleasant smile; every last detail says "pat me on the head." He entered Harvard but dropped out to found Microsoft in 1975.

Microsoft's first product was a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair 8800, arguably the world's first personal computer. BASIC, invented by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz in 1964, was someone else's idea. So was the Altair. Gates merely plugged one into the other, cream-cheesed the waiting bagel and came up with a giant hit.

By 1980, IBM had decided to build personal computers and needed a PC operating system. (Computers are born naked; they need operating systems to be presentable.) Mammoth, blue-chip IBM employed thousands of capable software builders, and didn't trust a single one of them; IBM hired Microsoft to build its operating system. Microsoft bought Q-DOS from a company called Seattle Computer Products and retailored it for the PC.

The PC was released in August 1981 and was followed into the market by huge flocks of honking, beeping clones. Microsoft's DOS was one of three official PC operating systems but quickly beat out the other two. DOS was clunky and primitive at a time when the well-dressed computer was wearing UNIX from Bell Labs or (if its tastes ran upscale) some variant of the revolutionary window-menu-mouse system that Xerox had pioneered in the 1970s. But despite (or maybe because of) its stodginess, DOS established itself as the school uniform of computing. It was homely, but everyone needed it. Once again, Gates had brokered a marriage between other people's ideas and come up with a hit. DOS was even bigger than Basic. Gates had it made.

Apple released the Macintosh in January 1984: a tony, sophisticated computer was now available to the masses. Henceforth DOS was not merely homely, it was obsolete. But it continued to rake in money, so what if the critics hated it? In May 1990, Microsoft finally perfected its own version of Apple windows and called it Microsoft Windows 3.0 — another huge hit. Now Gates really (I mean really) had it made.

By the early '90s, electronic mail and the Internet were big. Technologists forecast an Internet-centered view of computing called "mirror worlds." Technophiles enthused about the "information superhighway." The World Wide Web emerged in 1994, making browsers necessary, and Netscape was founded that same year. Sun Microsystems developed Java, the Internet programming language. Gates hung back. It wasn't until 1996 that Microsoft finally, according to Gates himself, "embraced the Internet wholeheartedly."

Why lead when you can follow? Microsoft's first browser, Internet Explorer 1.0, was licensed from a company called Spyglass. It was an afterthought, available off the shelf as part of a $45 CD-ROM crammed with random tidbits, software antipasto, odds and ends you could live without — one of which was Explorer. Today Microsoft is the world's most powerful supplier of Web browsers, and Gates really has it made. The U.S. Justice Department is suing Microsoft for throwing its weight around illegally, hitting companies like Netscape below the belt. The trial is under way. Whoever wins, Gates will still be the No. 1 man in the industry.

The world pondered Gates and assumed he must be a great thinker. During World War II, Cargo Cults flourished on New Guinea and Melanesia: people who had never seen an airplane pondered incoming U.S. aircraft and assumed they must be divine. Technology is confusing, and these were reasonable guesses under the circumstances. In 1995 Gates published a book (co-authored with Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson) called "The Road Ahead." Peering far into the future, he glimpsed a technology-rich dreamworld where you will be able to "watch Gone With the Wind," he wrote, "with your own face and voice replacing Vivien Leigh's or Clark Gable's." Apparently this is just what the public had been dying to do, for "The Road Ahead" became a runaway best seller, though it is lustrous with earnest goofiness, like a greased-down haircut.

And yet we tend to overlook (in sizing him up) Gates' basic decency. He has repeatedly been offered a starring role in the circus freak show of American Celebrity, Julius Caesar being offered the Emperor's crown by clamorous sycophants. He has turned it down. He does not make a habit of going on TV to pontificate, free-associate or share his feelings. His wife and young child are largely invisible to the public, which represents a deliberate decision on the part of Mr. and Mrs.

If postwar America of the 1950s and '60s democratized middle-classness, Gates has democratized filthy-richness — or has at least started to. Get the right job offer from Microsoft, work hard, get rich; no miracle required. Key Microsoft employees pushed Gates in this direction, but he was willing to go, and the industry followed. The Gates Road to Wealth is still a one-laner, and traffic is limited. But the idea that a successful corporation should enrich not merely its executives and big stockholders but also a fair number of ordinary line employees is (although not unique to Microsoft) potentially revolutionary. Wealth is good. Gates has created lots and has been willing to share.

Today Gates, grown very powerful and great, sits at the center of world technology like an immense frog eyeing insect life on the pond surface, now and then consuming a tasty company with one quick dart of the tongue.

But the Microsoft Windows world view is dead in the water, and Microsoft has nothing to offer in its place. Windows is a relic of the ancient days when e-mail didn't matter, when the Internet and the Web didn't matter, when most computer users had only a relative handful of files to manage. Big changes are in the works that will demote computers and their operating systems to the status of TV sets. You can walk up to any TV and tune in CBS; you will be able to walk up to any computer and tune in your own files, your electronic life. The questions of the moment are, What will the screen look like? How will the controls work? What exactly will they do? and Who will clean up?

Microsoft? Maybe. On the other hand, being the biggest, toughest frog in the pond doesn't help if you're in the wrong pond. Some people have the idea that Microsoft is fated to dominate technology forever. They had this same idea about IBM, once admired and feared nearly as much as Microsoft is today. They had essentially the same idea about Japan's technology sector back in the 1980s and early '90s. It isn't quite fair to compare Microsoft to a large country yet. But Japan was on a roll and looked invincible — once. (Or, if you go back to Pearl Harbor, twice.)

As for Gates himself, he is no visionary; he is a technology groupie with a genius for showing up, for being at the right place at the right time. His secret is revealed in that old photo with Paul Allen. He is a man who likes computers very much. Not their intellectual underpinnings, not the physics or electronics, not the art or philosophy or mathematics of software — just plain computers. He's crazy about them. It seems like an odd passion, but after all, some people are crazy about Pop-Tarts. And Gates will be remembered alongside Pop-Tarts, in the long run, as vintage Americana, a sign of the times. A little on the bland side perhaps, unexciting, not awfully deep, not to everyone's taste, but not all that bad.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptized Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart) (27 January 17565 December 1791) was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. His output of over 600 compositions includes works widely acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. Mozart is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers and many of his works are part of the standard concert repertoire.

The youngest child and only surviving son of Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus was born in Salzburg in 1756, the year of publication of his father's influential treatise on violin-playing. He showed early precocity both as a keyboard-player and violinist, and soon turned his hand to composition. His obvious gifts were developed under his father's tutelage, with those of his elder sister, and the family, through the indulgence of their then patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, was able to travel abroad, specifically, between 1763 and 1766, to Paris and to London. A series of other journeys followed, with important operatic commissions in Italy between 1771 and 1773. The following period proved disappointing to both father and son, as the young Mozart grew to manhood, irked by the lack of opportunity and lack of appreciation of his gifts in Salzburg, where a new Archbishop proved less sympathetic. A visit to Munich, Mannheim and Paris in 1777 and 1778 brought no substantial offer of other employment and by early 1779 Mozart was reinstated in Salzburg, now as court organist. Early in 1781 he had a commissioned opera, Idomeneo, staged in Munich for the Elector of Bavaria and dissatisfaction after being summoned to attend his patron the Archbishop in Vienna led to his dismissal. Mozart spent the last ten years of his life in precarious independence in Vienna, his material situation not improved by a marriage imprudent for one in his circumstances. Initial success with German and then Italian opera and series of subscription concerts were followed by financial difficulties. In 1791 things seemed to have taken a turn for the better, in spite of the lack of interest of the successor to the Emperor Joseph II, who had died in 1790. In late November, however, Mozart became seriously ill and died in the small hours of 5th December. Mozart's compositions were catalogued in the 19th century by Köchel, and they are generally now distinguished by K. numbering from this catalogue.


Mozart was essentially an operatic composer, although Salzburg offered him no real opportunity to exercise his talents in this direction. The greater stage works belong to the last decade of his life, starting with Idomeneo in Munich in January 1781. In Vienna, where he then settled, his first success came with the German opera or singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), a work on a Turkish theme, staged at the Burgtheater in 1782. Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), an Italian comic opera with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte based on the controversial play by Beaumarchais, was staged at the same theatre in 1786 and Don Giovanni, with a libretto again by da Ponte, in Prague in 1787. Così fan tutte (All Women Behave Alike) was staged briefly in Vienna in 1790, its run curtailed by the death of the Emperor. La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus) was written for the coronation of the new Emperor in Prague in 1791, no such commission having been granted Mozart in Vienna. His last stage work, a Singspiel, was Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), mounted at the end of September at the Theater auf der Wieden, a magic opera that was running with success at the time of the composer's death.

Church Music

As he lay dying Mozart was joined by his friends to sing through parts of a work that he left unfinished. This was his setting of the Requiem Mass, commissioned by an anonymous nobleman, who had intended to pass the work off as his own. The Requiem was later completed by Mozart's pupil Süssmayer, to whom it was eventually entrusted. Mozart composed other church music, primarily for use in Salzburg. Settings of the Mass include the Coronation Mass of 1779, one of a number of liturgical settings of this kind. In addition to settings of litanies and Vespers, Mozart wrote a number of shorter works for church use. These include the well known Exsultate, jubilate, written for the castrato Rauzzini in Milan in 1773 and the simple four-part setting of the Ave verum, written to oblige a priest in Baden in June 1791. Mozart's Church or Epistle Sonatas were written to bridge the liturgical gap between the singing of the Epistle and the singing of the Gospel at Mass. Composed in Salzburg during a period from 1772 until 1780, the sonatas are generally scored for two violins, bass instrument and organ, although three of them, intended for days of greater ceremony, involve a slightly larger ensemble.

Vocal and Choral Music

In addition to a smaller number of works for vocal ensemble, Mozart wrote concert arias and scenes, some of them for insertion into operas by others. Songs, with piano accompaniment, include a setting of Goethe's Das Veilchen (The Violet).

Orchestral Music

Mozart wrote his first symphony in London in 1764-5 and his last in Vienna in August 1788. The last three symphonies, Nos. 39, 40 and 41, were all written during the summer of 1788, each of them with its own highly individual character. No. 39, in E flat major, using clarinets instead of the usual pair of oboes, has a timbre all its own, while No. 40 in G minor, with its ominous and dramatic opening, is now very familiar. The last symphony, nicknamed in later years the Jupiter symphony, has a fugal last movement, a contrapuntal development of what was becoming standard symphonic practice. All the symphonies, of course, repay listening. Of particular beauty is Symphony No. 29, scored for the then usual pairs of oboes and French horns and strings, written in 1774, the more grandiose Paris Symphony, No. 31, written in 1778 with a French audience in mind, the Haffner, the Linz and the Prague, Nos. 35, 36 and 38. The so-called Salzburg Symphonies, in three movements, on the Italian model, and scored only for strings, were probably intended for occasional use during one of Mozart's Italian journeys. They are more generally known in English as Divertimenti, K. 136, 137 and 138. The symphonies are not numbered absolutely in chronological order of composition, but Nos. 35 to 41 were written in Vienna in the 1780s and Nos. 14 to 30 in Salzburg in the 1770s.

The best known Serenade of all is Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night-Music), a charming piece of which four of the five original movements survive. It is scored for solo strings and was written in the summer of 1787, the year of the opera Don Giovanni and of the death of the composer's father. The Serenata notturna, written in 1776 in Salzburg uses solo and orchestral strings and timpani, while the Divertimento K. 247, the Lodron Night-Music, dating from the same year, also served a social purpose during evening entertainments in Salzburg. Cassations, the word more or less synonymous with Divertimento or Serenade, again had occasional use, sometimes as a street serenade, as in the case of Mozart's three surviving works of this title, designed to mark end of year university celebrations. Generally music of this kind consisted of several short movements. Other examples of the form by Mozart include the so-called Posthorn Serenade, K. 320, which uses the posthorn itself during its course and the Haffner Serenade, designed to celebrate an event in the Haffner family in Salzburg. The Serenade K. 361, known as the Gran Partita, was written during the comnposer's first years of independence in Vienna and scored for a dozen wind instruments and a double bass.

Mozart wrote some 30 keyboard concertos. The earliest of these are four arrangements of movements by various composer, made in 1767, in the form of keyboard concertos. In 1772 Mozart arranged three sonatas by the youngest son of J.S. Bach, Johann Christian, to form keyboard concertos. These last three concertos are not generally included in the numbering of the concertos. Apart from these arrangements Mozart wrote six keyboard concertos during his years in Salzburg. The more important compositions in this form, designed clearly for the fortepiano, an instrument smaller than the modern pianoforte and with a more delicately incisive tone, were written in Vienna between 1782 and 1791, principally for the composer's use in subscription concerts with which he at first won success in the imperial capital. Of the 27 numbered concertos particular mention may be made of the Concertos in C minor and D minor, Nos. 24 and 20, K. 491 and 466. Mozart completed his last piano concerto No. 27, K. 595 in B flat major, in January 1791. Mozart wrote a series of five concertos for solo violin one in 1773 and four in 1775 in 1775 at a time when he was concertmaster of the court orchestra in Salzburg. Of these the last three, K. 216 in G major, K. 218 in D major and K. 219 in A major are the best known, together with the splendid Sinfonia concertante of 1779, for solo violin and solo viola. The Concertone for two solo violins, written in 1774, is less frequently heard. Mozart's concertos for solo wind instruments include a concerto for bassoon, two concertos for solo flute and a concerto for solo oboe, with a final concerto for clarinet written in October 1791. Mozart wrote four concertos for French horn, principally for the use of his friend, the horn-player Ignaz Leutgeb and a Sinfonia concertante for solo wind instruments, designed for performance by Mannheim friends in Paris. During his stay in France in 1778 he also wrote a fine concerto for flute and harp, intended for unappreciative aristocratic patrons there.

Chamber Music

It was inevitable that Mozart should also show his mastery in music for smaller groups of instruments. With some reluctance he accepted a commission in Mannheim for a series of quartets for flute and string trio, two of which he completed during his stay there in 1777/8. A third flute quartet was completed in Vienna in 1787, preceded by an oboe quartet in Munich in 1781, a quintet the following year for French horn, violin, two violas and cello and finally, in 1789, a clarinet quintet, the wind part for his friend Anton Stadler, a virtuoso performer on the newly developed clarinet and on the basset-clarinet, an instrument of extended range of his own invention. Mozart's work for string instruments includes a group of string quintets, written in Vienna in 1787 and, over the course of around twenty years, some 23 string quartets. Particularly interesting are the later quartets, a group of six dedicated to and influenced by Joseph Haydn and three final quartets, the so-called Prussian Quartets, intended for the cello-playing King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II. To the body of music of more serious intention may be added Ein musikalische Spass, K. 522 (A Musical Joke) for two horns and solo strings, written in 1787. The music is a re-creation of a work played for and presumably composed by village musicians, including formal solecisms and other deliberate mistakes of structure and harmony. There are other chamber music compositions, principally written during the last ten years of Mozart's life in Vienna, involving the use of the piano, an instrument on which Mozart excelled. These later compositions include six completed piano trios, two piano quartets, and a work that Mozart claimed to consider his best, a quintet for piano, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn, K. 452. Mozart added considerably to the violin and piano sonata repertoire, writing his first sonatas for these instruments between the ages of six and eight and his last in 1788, making up a total of some thirty compositions. On the whole the later sonatas intended for professional players of a high order have more to offer than the sonatas written for pupils or amateurs, although there is fine music, for example, in the set of six sonatas written during the composer's journey to Mannheim and Paris in 1777 and 1778.

Piano Music

Mozart's sonatas for the fortepiano cover a period from 1766 to 1791, with a significant number of mature sonatas written during the years in Vienna. The sonatas inculde much fine music, ranging from the slighter C major Sonata for beginners K. 545 to the superb B flat Sonata, K. 570. In addition to his sonatas he wrote a number of sets of variations, while his ephemeral improvisations in similar form are inevitably lost to us. The published works include operatic variations as well as a set of variations on the theme Ah, vous dirai-je, maman, known in English as Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

Organ Music

There is very little organ music by Mozart or, indeed, by other great composers of the period, although organ improvisation was an art generally practised, then as now. Mozart's organ music includes a few compositions for mechanical organ, one improvisation, transcribed from memory by a priest who heard most of it, and a number of smaller compositions perhaps intended for organ, written in childhood. Mozart's last appointment in Salzburg was as court organist, and there are significant organ parts in some of the church sonatas he wrote during that brief period, in 1779 and 1780.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Michael Faraday

The English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday, b. Sept. 22, 1791, d. Aug. 25, 1867, is known for his pioneering experiments in electricity and magnetism. Many consider him the greatest experimentalist who ever lived. Several concepts that he derived directly from experiments, such as lines of magnetic force, have become common ideas in modern physics.

Faraday was born at Newington, Surrey, near London. He received little more than a primary education, and at the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a bookbinder. There he became interested in the physical and chemical works of the time. After hearing a lecture by the famous chemist Humphry Davy, he sent Davy the notes he had made of his lectures. As a result Faraday was appointed, at the age of 21, assistant to Davy in the laboratory of the Royal Institution in London.

During the initial years of his scientific work, Faraday occupied himself mainly with chemical problems. He discovered two new chlorides of carbon and succeeded in liquefying chlorine and other gases. He isolated benzene in 1825, the year in which he was appointed director of the laboratory.

Davy, who had the greatest influence on Faraday's thinking, had shown in 1807 that the metals sodium and potassium can be precipitated from their compounds by an electric current, a process known as electrolysis. Faraday's vigorous pursuit of these experiments led in 1834 to what became known as Faraday's laws of electrolysis.

Faraday's research into electricity and electrolysis was guided by the belief that electricity is only one of the many manifestations of the unified forces of nature, which included heat, light, magnetism, and chemical affinity. Although this idea was erroneous, it led him into the field of electromagnetism, which was still in its infancy. In 1785, Charles Coulomb had been the first to demonstrate the manner in which electric charges repel one another, and it was not until 1820 that Hans Christian Oersted and Andre Marie Ampere discovered that an electric current produces a magnetic field. Faraday's ideas about conservation of energy led him to believe that since an electric current could cause a magnetic field, a magnetic field should be able to produce an electric current. He demonstrated this principle of induction in 1831. Faraday expressed the electric current induced in the wire in terms of the number of lines of force that are cut by the wire. The principle of induction was a landmark in applied science, for it made possible the dynamo, or generator, which produces electricity by mechanical means.

Faraday's introduction of the concept of lines of force was rejected by most of the mathematical physicists of Europe, since they assumed that electric charges attract and repel one another, by action at a distance, making such lines unnecessary. Faraday had demonstrated the phenomenon of electromagnetism in a series of experiments, however. This experimental necessity probably led the physicist James Clerk Maxwell to accept the concept of lines of force and put Faraday's ideas into mathematical form, thus giving birth to modern field theory.

Faraday's discovery (1845) that an intense magnetic field can rotate the plane of polarized light is known today as the Faraday effect. The phenomenon has been used to elucidate molecular structure and has yielded information about galactic magnetic fields.

Faraday described his numerous experiments in electricity and electromagnetism in three volumes entitled Experimental Researches in Electricity (1839, 1844, 1855); his chemical work was chronicled in Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics (1858). Faraday ceased research work in 1855 because of declining mental powers, but he continued as a lecturer until 1861. A series of six children's lectures published in 1860 as The Chemical History of a Candle, has become a classic of science literature.


Nicolaus Copernicus

Born on Feb. 19, 1473, in Thorn (Torun), Poland, Nicolaus Copernicus was destined to become, through the publication of his heliocentric theory 70 years later, one of the seminal figures in the history of scientific thought. The son of a prosperous merchant, he was raised after his father's death by a maternal uncle, who enabled him to enter the University of Krakow, then famous for its mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy curriculum. This experience stimulated the young Copernicus to study further liberal arts at Bologna (1496-1501), medicine at Padua, and law at the University of Ferrara, from which he emerged in 1503 with the doctorate in canon law. Shortly afterward he returned to Poland and eventually settled permanently at the cathedral in Frauenberg (Frombork), less than 100 miles from his birthplace. Through his uncle's influence he had been elected a canon of the church even before his journey to Italy. Copernicus not only faithfully performed his ecclesiastical duties, but also practiced medicine, wrote a treatise on monetary reform, and turned his attention to a subject in which he had long been interested--astronomy.

By May 1514 Copernicus had written and discreetly circulated in manuscript his Commentariolus, the first outline of those arguments eventually substantiated in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, 1543). This classic work challenged the geocentric cosmology that had been dogmatically accepted since the time of Aristotle. In direct opposition to Aristotle and to the 2d-century astronomer Ptolemy, who enunciated the details of the geocentric system based on the celestial phenomena, Copernicus proposed that a rotating Earth revolving with the other planets about a stationary central Sun could account in a simpler way for the same observed phenomena of the daily rotation of the heavens, the annual movement of the Sun through the ecliptic, and the periodic retrograde motion of the planets.

Anticipated in various aspects by the Pythagoreans and ARISTARCHUS OF SAMOS (with whom he was familiar), and by the Muslim astronomer Ibn al-Shatir and certain Christian writers (whose ideas there is no conclusive evidence he knew), the new theory that Copernicus espoused in De revolutionibus exhibits a peculiar mixture of both radical and conservative elements. In the midst of his radical reordering of the structure of the universe, Copernicus still adhered to the ancient Aristotelian doctrines of solid celestial spheres and perfect circular motion of heavenly bodies, and he held essentially intact the entire Aristotelian physics of motion. Moreover, with significant innovations, he clung to the Ptolemaic representation of planetary motion by means of complicated combinations of circles called epicycles. Although Copernicus realized that his theory implied an enormous increase in the size of the universe, he declined to pronounce it infinite.

These aspects of the Copernican treatise do not mitigate the novelty or the impact of the final theory, or the author's firm conviction that his system was an accurate representation of physical reality. Rather, they indicate the scope of the work that lay ahead and that was effectively addressed in the next century when Kepler determined the ellipticity of planetary orbits, Galileo formulated his new concept of motion, and Newton espoused his theory of universal gravitation.

The enunciation of the heliocentric theory by Copernicus marked the beginning of the scientific revolution, and of a new view of a greatly enlarged universe. It was a shift away from the comfortable anthropocentrism of the ancient and medieval world. A scientific theory that reflected so profoundly on humanity was not welcomed by the church, and it was only after the publication (1540) of Narratio prima (A First Account), by an enthusiastic supporter named Rheticus, that the aged Copernicus agreed to commit to print the theory already outlined in 1514. An undocumented, but often repeated, story holds that Copernicus received a printed copy of his treatise on his deathbed. He died on May 24, 1543.

Buddha - The Enlightened

Buddha was born around 565 B.C. in Lumbini in modern day Nepal. His name 'Siddhattha Gautama,' means 'descendant of Gotama whose aims are achieved/who is efficacious in achieving aims', he later became the Buddha (literally Enlightened One or Awakened One). He is also commonly known as 'Shakyamuni' or 'Sakyamuni' (lit. "The sage of the Shakya clan") and as the Tathagata (lit. "thus come" or "thus gone"). Gautama was a contemporary of Mahavira.

Few of the details of the Buddha's life can be independently verified, and it is difficult to determine what is history and what is myth.

According to most Buddhist traditions, Siddhattha Gautama, the future Buddha lived many lives before coming to our present world era. In his many existences during the long, long period of time and in the one hundred thousand worlds, the future Buddha had fulfilled the Ten Paramitas, and, in order to save this world, he was to be born in our era and to become a fully enlightened Buddha.

Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini (a town situated in modern Nepal, near the Indian border) under the full moon of May to the clan of the Shakyas, a warrior tribe. The day of his birth is widely celebrated in Buddhist countries as Vesak. Gautama's father was the king of Kapilavastu in Magadha, and Gautama was born a prince, destined to a life of luxury.

During the birth celebrations, a seer announced that this baby would either become a great king or a great holy man.

Since King Suddhodana had long awaited a child, he and everyone else in the palace rejoiced at the birth of a son. The King immediately called a famous wise sage, Asita. Asita told the king, "If he remains at home, the child will become the Wheel-rolling King. If he leaves home, he will become the great teacher, the Buddha."

His father, wishing for Gautama to be a great king, shielded his son from religious teachings or knowledge of human suffering.

His mother Maya, died, on the seventh day after her delivery and Maya's sister, Mahapajapati became the step mother of Siddhattha. The prince grew up in an environment of care and love, respect and joy. However, he was sometimes unhappy.

At a palace festival, the young prince sat down under a tree and was soon lost in meditation. It is said that though the shadows of all the trees had lengthened, the shadow of the tree under which he sat had not moved.

Buddha studied science and technology, art and philosophy, religious knowledge under the tuition of famous scholars, riding, archery, and fencing. He excelled at everything. His expected much from his son and made him crown prince and heir apparent.

But this did not please the young man, who steadily grew to be thoughtful and depressed.

To cheer him up, his worried father and foster mother built three palaces, one for cold weather, one for hot weather, and one for the rainy season. They appointed many beautiful court ladies to wait on him and arranged banquets with dancing and music.

Hoping to give his son pleasure, King Suddhodana arranged four trips outside the city of Kapilavastu, one through each of its four gates.

At the age of thirteen, Gautama was escorted by his attendant Channa on four subsequent visits outside of the palace.

There, he came across the "four sights": an old crippled man, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and finally an ascetic. Gautama realized then the harsh truth of life - that death, disease, age, and pain were inescapable, that the poor outnumbered the wealthy, and that even the pleasures of the rich eventually came to nothing.

"The four sights/gates" represent the state of mind of the prince with respect to the suffering of aging, illness and death. Superficial prosperity in economy and relative stability in political environment cannot relieve people from worry, fear, anxiety and suffering and cannot lead them to ultimate happiness.

As the boy reached the age of 16, his father arranged a marriage to a cousin of the same age, Yashodhara, and she gave birth to a son, Rahula. Although his father ensured that Gautama was provided with everything he could want or need, Gautama was constantly troubled and internally dissatisfied.

The future Buddha bid farewell to his wife, Princess Yasodhara and new son, Rahula, before renouncing the householder's life to seek an end to suffering. He would devote himself to search for the ultimate truth.

Though his love to his family may have hindered him, the birth of his son, Rahula, provided a favorable occasion for his departure since with the birth of his son, Siddattha had fulfilled his karma to his father and his wife according to the Indian tradition.

The young ascetic practiced extreme self-mortification for six years in the hopes of discovering Truth. It is said he ate little more than a single sesame seed or grain of rice each day. After these six years he determined to continue his quest in a new manner. He practiced a Middle Way between self-mortification and self- indulgence.

During that time, Siddhatha went to Rajagaha, the capital of Magadha, which was the centre of culture with many orthodox and unorthodox monks.

By that time, the two major disciplines for the sake of enlightenment were meditation and ascetic austeritics.

Siddhattha studyied meditation under two famous teachers, Alara-Kalama and Uddaka-Ramaputta.

The state attained by Alara-Kalama was that of a much higher formless world where physical matter no longer exists.

Uddaka-Ramaputta reached an even higher state at which neither thought nor non-thought existed.

Siddhatha did not find it difficult to attain either state.

Attaining these states of mind did not ease his mental anxieties, because once he stopped meditation, he returned to the mental state of depression.

He knew that the true liberation from the attachment of ignorance and suffering could be attained only by reaching a state of absolute tranquility.

He left his teachers to continue his search for the ultimate truth.

He next practised asceticism, which was very common among Samanas. They believed that the human suffering was caused by the attachment to the physical body and the mental spirit. Suffering can only be freed by detaching the spirit imposed by the body. Therefore, they tormented themselves for the purpose of weakening the power of the physical body over the mental spirit, until the body was destructed.

Siddhattha passed through the country of Magadha to the town of Uruvela, where he settled in a grove of trees to find enlightenment.

Practising austerities for six years, he was extremely tough on himself and put himself through many difficult tests after which was became so weak his body was nothing more than skin and bones.

These Are His Four Nobel Truths

1. The Noble Truth of Suffering: There is Suffering - Rebirth, old age, disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, association with objects we dislike, separation from objects we love, not to obtain what one desires cause suffering. There are also many happy hours and pleasure in man's life-time, but according to the law of nature, they are impermanent and these last only for a short time and vanish into nothing. Only sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are left by them behind.

2. The Noble Truth of The Arising of Suffering: Suffering has an origin - The Threefold Craving leads every being from birth to birth and is accompanied by joy and lust, seeking its gratification here and there, namely: Sensual Craving, Craving for Existence and Craving for Wealth and Power. There are also a sixfold craving, namely the eye craves for forms, the ear craves for sounds, the nose craves for odours, the tongue craves for taste, the body craves for objects, and the mind craves for noun, dreams or illusions. These Cravings and ignorance of the law of nature are the condition of origin of individual suffering.

3. The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering: Suffering Can Cease - The condition of cessation of suffering is the complete fading away and extinction of this three fold craving, forsaking it and giving it up, the liberation and detachment from it. The condition of mind of a person who has been giving up his threefold cravings or this sixfold craving together with ignorance can realize Nirvana (or the Extinction of the Cravings).

4. The Noble Truth of The Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering: There is a Path our of Suffering - It is the 'Noble Eightfold Path' (or the 'Middle Path' because it avoids the two extremes of sensual pleasure and self-mortification), that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.

He discovered the reality of universe, and found the path to free humanity from the suffering of birth and death thus attaining eternal happiness.

As a Buddha, an awakened one, he returned to teach his five fellow practitioners the Noble Truth of Unsatisfactoriness, the Noble truth of the Cause (Craving), the Noble Truth of Cessation, and the Noble 8-fold Path leading to the cessation of all suffering. The wheel of Dharma had been set in motion.

The Buddha gained many followers. On one occasion 1,250 monks gathered spontaneously to hear his teaching. (This day is commemorated as a holiday in Buddhist countries.)

After 45 years of teaching the Dharma, the Buddha passed into Parinirvana. In his last sermon, he encouraged his disciples to diligently seek the truth and not to hold on to that which is impermanent.


Aryabhatta- The Hero who gave us the 'Zero' and the 'pi'

Whatever this origin, it cannot be argued that he lived in Patliputra where he wrote his famous treatise the “Aryabhatta-siddhanta” but more famously the “Aryabhatiya”, the only work to have survived. It contains mathematical and astronomical theories that have been revealed to be quite accurate in modern mathematics. For instance he wrote that if 4 is added to 100 and then multiplied by 8 then added to 62,000 then divided by 20,000 the answer will be equal to the circumference of a circle of diameter twenty thousand. This calculates to 3.1416 close to the actual value Pi (3.14159). But his greatest contribution has to be zero. His other works include algebra, arithmetic, trigonometry, quadratic equations and the sine table.

He already knew that the earth spins on its axis, the earth moves round the sun and the moon rotates round the earth. He talks about the position of the planets in relation to its movement around the sun. He refers to the light of the planets and the moon as reflection from the sun. He goes as far as to explain the eclipse of the moon and the sun, day and night, the contours of the earth, the length of the year exactly as 365 days. He even computed the circumference of the earth as 24835 miles which is close to modern day calculation of 24900 miles.

This remarkable man was a genius and continues to baffle many mathematicians of today. His works was then later adopted by the Greeks and then the Arabs.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727), English natural philosopher, generally regarded as the most original and influential theorist in the history of science. In addition to his invention of the infinitesimal calculus and a new theory of light and color, Newton transformed the structure of physical science with his three laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. As the keystone of the scientific revolution of the 17th century, Newton's work combined the contributions of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and others into a new and powerful synthesis. Three centuries later the resulting structure - classical mechanics - continues to be a useful but no less elegant monument to his genius.

Life & Character - Isaac Newton was born prematurely on Christmas day 1642 (4 January 1643, New Style) in Woolsthorpe, a hamlet near Grantham in Lincolnshire. The posthumous son of an illiterate yeoman (also named Isaac), the fatherless infant was small enough at birth to fit 'into a quartpot.' When he was barely three years old Newton's mother, Hanna (Ayscough), placed her first born with his grandmother in order to remarry and raise a second family with Barnabas Smith, a wealthy rector from nearby North Witham. Much has been made of Newton's posthumous birth, his prolonged separation from his mother, and his unrivaled hatred of his stepfather. Until Hanna returned to Woolsthorpe in 1653 after the death of her second husband, Newton was denied his mother's attention, a possible clue to his complex character. Newton's childhood was anything but happy, and throughout his life he verged on emotional collapse, occasionally falling into violent and vindictive attacks against friend and foe alike.

With his mother's return to Woolsthorpe in 1653, Newton was taken from school to fulfill his birthright as a farmer. Happily, he failed in this calling, and returned to King's School at Grantham to prepare for entrance to Trinity College, Cambridge. Numerous anecdotes survive from this period about Newton's absent-mindedness as a fledging farmer and his lackluster performance as a student. But the turning point in Newton's life came in June 1661 when he left Woolsthorpe for Cambridge University. Here Newton entered a new world, one he could eventually call his own.

Although Cambridge was an outstanding center of learning, the spirit of the scientific revolution had yet to penetrate its ancient and somewhat ossified curriculum. Little is known of Newton's formal studies as an undergraduate, but he likely received large doses of Aristotle as well as other classical authors. And by all appearances his academic performance was undistinguished. In 1664 Isaac Barrow, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, examined Newton's understanding of Euclid and found it sorely lacking. We now know that during his undergraduate years Newton was deeply engrossed in private study, that he privately mastered the works of René Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, Thomas Hobbes, and other major figures of the scientific revolution. A series of extant notebooks shows that by 1664 Newton had begun to master Descartes' Géométrie and other forms of mathematics far in advance of Euclid's Elements. Barrow, himself a gifted mathematician, had yet to appreciate Newton's genius.

In 1665 Newton took his bachelor's degree at Cambridge without honors or distinction. Since the university was closed for the next two years because of plague, Newton returned to Woolsthorpe in midyear. There, in the following 18 months, he made a series of original contributions to science. As he later recalled, 'All this was in the two plague years of 1665 and 1666, for in those days I was in my prime of age for invention, and minded mathematics and philosophy more than at any time since.' In mathematics Newton conceived his 'method of fluxions' (infinitesimal calculus), laid the foundations for his theory of light and color, and achieved significant insight into the problem of planetary motion, insights that eventually led to the publication of his Principia (1687).

In April 1667, Newton returned to Cambridge and, against stiff odds, was elected a minor fellow at Trinity. Success followed good fortune. In the next year he became a senior fellow upon taking his master of arts degree, and in 1669, before he had reached his 27th birthday, he succeeded Isaac Barrow as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. The duties of this appointment offered Newton the opportunity to organize the results of his earlier optical researches, and in 1672, shortly after his election to the Royal Society, he communicated his first public paper, a brilliant but no less controversial study on the nature of color.

In the first of a series of bitter disputes, Newton locked horns with the society's celebrated curator of experiments, the bright but brittle Robert Hooke. The ensuing controversy, which continued until 1678, established a pattern in Newton's behavior. After an initial skirmish, he quietly retreated. Nonetheless, in 1675 Newton ventured another yet another paper, which again drew lightning, this time charged with claims that he had plagiarized from Hooke. The charges were entirely ungrounded. Twice burned, Newton withdrew.

In 1678, Newton suffered a serious emotional breakdown, and in the following year his mother died. Newton's response was to cut off contact with others and engross himself in alchemical research. These studies, once an embarrassment to Newton scholars, were not misguided musings but rigorous investigations into the hidden forces of nature. Newton's alchemical studies opened theoretical avenues not found in the mechanical philosophy, the world view that sustained his early work. While the mechanical philosophy reduced all phenomena to the impact of matter in motion, the alchemical tradition upheld the possibility of attraction and repulsion at the particulate level. Newton's later insights in celestial mechanics can be traced in part to his alchemical interests. By combining action-at-a-distance and mathematics, Newton transformed the mechanical philosophy by adding a mysterious but no less measurable quantity, gravitational force.

In 1666, as tradition has it, Newton observed the fall of an apple in his garden at Woolsthorpe, later recalling, 'In the same year I began to think of gravity extending to the orb of the Moon.' Newton's memory was not accurate. In fact, all evidence suggests that the concept of universal gravitation did not spring full-blown from Newton's head in 1666 but was nearly 20 years in gestation. Ironically, Robert Hooke helped give it life. In November 1679, Hooke initiated an exchange of letters that bore on the question of planetary motion. Although Newton hastily broke off the correspondence, Hooke's letters provided a conceptual link between central attraction and a force falling off with the square of distance. Sometime in early 1680, Newton appears to have quietly drawn his own conclusions.

Meanwhile, in the coffeehouses of London, Hooke, Edmund Halley, and Christopher Wren struggled unsuccessfully with the problem of planetary motion. Finally, in August 1684, Halley paid a legendary visit to Newton in Cambridge, hoping for an answer to his riddle: What type of curve does a planet describe in its orbit around the sun, assuming an inverse square law of attraction? When Halley posed the question, Newton's ready response was 'an ellipse.' When asked how he knew it was an ellipse Newton replied that he had already calculated it. Although Newton had privately answered one of the riddles of the universe--and he alone possessed the mathematical ability to do so--he had characteristically misplaced the calculation. After further discussion he promised to send Halley a fresh calculation forthwith. In partial fulfillment of his promise Newton produced his De Motu of 1684. From that seed, after nearly two years of intense labor, the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica appeared. Arguably, it is the most important book published in the history of science. But if the Principia was Newton's brainchild, Hooke and Halley were nothing less than midwives.

Although the Principia was well received, its future was cast in doubt before it appeared. Here again Hooke was center stage, this time claiming (not without justification) that his letters of 1679-1680 earned him a role in Newton's discovery. But to no effect. Newton was so furious with Hooke that he threatened to suppress Book III of the Principia altogether, finally denouncing science as 'an impertinently litigious lady.' Newton calmed down and finally consented to publication. But instead of acknowledging Hooke's contribution Newton systematically deleted every possible mention of Hooke's name. Newton's hatred for Hooke was consumptive. Indeed, Newton later withheld publication of his Opticks (1704) and virtually withdrew from the Royal Society until Hooke's death in 1703.

After publishing the Principia, Newton became more involved in public affairs. In 1689 he was elected to represent Cambridge in Parliament, and during his stay in London he became acquainted with John Locke, the famous philosopher, and Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, a brilliant young mathematician who became an intimate friend. In 1693, however, Newton suffered a severe nervous disorder, not unlike his breakdown of 1677-1678. The cause is open to interpretation: overwork; the stress of controversy; the unexplained loss of friendship with Fatio; or perhaps chronic mercury poisoning, the result of nearly three decades of alchemical research. Each factor may have played a role. We only know Locke and Samuel Pepys received strange and seemingly deranged letters that prompted concern for Newton's 'discomposure in head, or mind, or both.' Whatever the cause, shortly after his recovery Newton sought a new position in London. In 1696, with the help of Charles Montague, a fellow of Trinity and later earl of Halifax, Newton was appointed Warden and then Master of the Mint. His new position proved 'most proper,' and he left Cambridge for London without regret.

During his London years Newton enjoyed power and worldly success. His position at the Mint assured a comfortable social and economic status, and he was an active and able administrator. After the death of Hooke in 1703, Newton was elected president of the Royal Society and was annually reelected until his death. In 1704 he published his second major work, the Opticks, based largely on work completed decades before. He was knighted in 1705.

Although his creative years had passed, Newton continued to exercise a profound influence on the development of science. In effect, the Royal Society was Newton's instrument, and he played it to his personal advantage. His tenure as president has been described as tyrannical and autocratic, and his control over the lives and careers of younger disciples was all but absolute. Newton could not abide contradiction or controversy - his quarrels with Hooke provide singular examples. But in later disputes, as president of the Royal Society, Newton marshaled all the forces at his command. For example, he published Flamsteed's astronomical observations - the labor of a lifetime - without the author's permission; and in his priority dispute with Leibniz concerning the calculus, Newton enlisted younger men to fight his war of words, while behind the lines he secretly directed charge and countercharge. In the end, the actions of the Society were little more than extensions of Newton's will, and until his death he dominated the landscape of science without rival. He died in London on March 20, 1727 (March 31, New Style).

Scientific Achievements

Mathematics - The origin of Newton's interest in mathematics can be traced to his undergraduate days at Cambridge. Here Newton became acquainted with a number of contemporary works, including an edition of Descartes Géométrie, John Wallis' Arithmetica infinitorum, and other works by prominent mathematicians. But between 1664 and his return to Cambridge after the plague, Newton made fundamental contributions to analytic geometry, algebra, and calculus. Specifically, he discovered the binomial theorem, new methods for expansion of infinite series, and his 'direct and inverse method of fluxions.' As the term implies, fluxional calculus is a method for treating changing or flowing quantities. Hence, a 'fluxion' represents the rate of change of a 'fluent'--a continuously changing or flowing quantity, such as distance, area, or length. In essence, fluxions were the first words in a new language of physics.

Newton's creative years in mathematics extended from 1664 to roughly the spring of 1696. Although his predecessors had anticipated various elements of the calculus, Newton generalized and integrated these insights while developing new and more rigorous methods. The essential elements of his thought were presented in three tracts, the first appearing in a privately circulated treatise, De analysi (On Analysis),which went unpublished until 1711. In 1671, Newton developed a more complete account of his method of infinitesimals, which appeared nine years after his death as Methodus fluxionum et serierum infinitarum (The Method of Fluxions and Infinite Series, 1736). In addition to these works, Newton wrote four smaller tracts, two of which were appended to his Opticks of 1704.

Newton and Leibniz. Next to its brilliance, the most characteristic feature of Newton's mathematical career was delayed publication. Newton's priority dispute with Leibniz is a celebrated but unhappy example. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Newton's most capable adversary, began publishing papers on calculus in 1684, almost 20 years after Newton's discoveries commenced. The result of this temporal discrepancy was a bitter dispute that raged for nearly two decades. The ordeal began with rumors that Leibniz had borrowed ideas from Newton and rushed them into print. It ended with charges of dishonesty and outright plagiarism. The Newton-Leibniz priority dispute--which eventually extended into philosophical areas concerning the nature of God and the universe--ultimately turned on the ambiguity of priority. It is now generally agreed that Newton and Leibniz each developed the calculus independently, and hence they are considered co-discoverers. But while Newton was the first to conceive and develop his method of fluxions, Leibniz was the first to publish his independent results.

Optics. Newton's optical research, like his mathematical investigations, began during his undergraduate years at Cambridge. But unlike his mathematical work, Newton's studies in optics quickly became public. Shortly after his election to the Royal Society in 1671, Newton published his first paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. This paper, and others that followed, drew on his undergraduate researches as well as his Lucasian lectures at Cambridge.

In 1665-1666, Newton performed a number of experiments on the composition of light. Guided initially by the writings of Kepler and Descartes, Newton's main discovery was that visible (white) light is heterogeneous--that is, white light is composed of colors that can be considered primary. Through a brilliant series of experiments, Newton demonstrated that prisms separate rather than modify white light. Contrary to the theories of Aristotle and other ancients, Newton held that white light is secondary and heterogeneous, while the separate colors are primary and homogeneous. Of perhaps equal importance, Newton also demonstrated that the colors of the spectrum, once thought to be qualities, correspond to an observed and quantifiable 'degree of Refrangibility.'

The Crucial Experiment. Newton's most famous experiment, the experimentum crucis, demonstrated his theory of the composition of light. Briefly, in a dark room Newton allowed a narrow beam of sunlight to pass from a small hole in a window shutter through a prism, thus breaking the white light into an oblong spectrum on a board. Then, through a small aperture in the board, Newton selected a given color (for example, red) to pass through yet another aperture to a second prism, through which it was refracted onto a second board. What began as ordinary white light was thus dispersed through two prisms.

Newton's 'crucial experiment' demonstrated that a selected color leaving the first prism could not be separated further by the second prism. The selected beam remained the same color, and its angle of refraction was constant throughout. Newton concluded that white light is a 'Heterogeneous mixture of differently refrangible Rays' and that colors of the spectrum cannot themselves be individually modified, but are 'Original and connate properties.'

Newton probably conducted a number of his prism experiments at Cambridge before the plague forced him to return to Woolsthorpe. His Lucasian lectures, later published in part as Optical Lectures (1728), supplement other researches published in the Society's Transactions dating from February 1672.

The Opticks. The Opticks of 1704, which first appeared in English, is Newton's most comprehensive and readily accessible work on light and color. In Newton's words, the purpose of the Opticks was 'not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments.' Divided into three books, the Opticks moves from definitions, axioms, propositions, and theorems to proof by experiment. A subtle blend of mathematical reasoning and careful observation, the Opticks became the model for experimental physics in the 18th century.

The Corpuscular Theory. But the Opticks contained more than experimental results. During the 17th century it was widely held that light, like sound, consisted of a wave or undulatory motion, and Newton's major critics in the field of optics--Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens--were articulate spokesmen for this theory. But Newton disagreed. Although his views evolved over time, Newton's theory of light was essentially corpuscular, or particulate. In effect, since light (unlike sound) travels in straight lines and casts a sharp shadow, Newton suggested that light was composed of discrete particles moving in straight lines in the manner of inertial bodies. Further, since experiment had shown that the properties of the separate colors of light were constant and unchanging, so too, Newton reasoned, was the stuff of light itself-- particles.

At various points in his career Newton in effect combined the particle and wave theories of light. In his earliest dispute with Hooke and again in his Opticks of 1717, Newton considered the possibility of an ethereal substance--an all-pervasive elastic material more subtle than air--that would provide a medium for the propagation of waves or vibrations. From the outset Newton rejected the basic wave models of Hooke and Huygens, perhaps because they overlooked the subtlety of periodicity.

The question of periodicity arose with the phenomenon known as 'Newton's rings.' In book II of the Opticks, Newton describes a series of experiments concerning the colors of thin films. His most remarkable observation was that light passing through a convex lens pressed against a flat glass plate produces concentric colored rings (Newton's rings) with alternating dark rings. Newton attempted to explain this phenomenon by employing the particle theory in conjunction with his hypothesis of 'fits of easy transmission [refraction] and reflection.' After making careful measurements, Newton found that the thickness of the film of air between the lens (of a given curvature) and the glass corresponded to the spacing of the rings. If dark rings occurred at thicknesses of 0, 2, 4, 6... , then the colored rings corresponded to an odd number progression, 1, 3, 5, 7, .... Although Newton did not speculate on the cause of this periodicity, his initial association of 'Newton's rings' with vibrations in a medium suggests his willingness to modify but not abandon the particle theory.

The Opticks was Newton's most widely read work. Following the first edition, Latin versions appeared in 1706 and 1719, and second and third English editions in 1717 and 1721. Perhaps the most provocative part of the Opticks is the section known as the 'Queries,' which Newton placed at the end of the book. Here he posed questions and ventured opinions on the nature of light, matter, and the forces of nature.

Mechanics. Newton's research in dynamics falls into three major periods: the plague years 1664-1666, the investigations of 1679-1680, following Hooke's correspondence, and the period 1684-1687, following Halley's visit to Cambridge. The gradual evolution of Newton's thought over these two decades illustrates the complexity of his achievement as well as the prolonged character of scientific 'discovery.'

While the myth of Newton and the apple maybe true, the traditional account of Newton and gravity is not. To be sure, Newton's early thoughts on gravity began in Woolsthorpe, but at the time of his famous 'moon test' Newton had yet to arrive at the concept of gravitational attraction. Early manuscripts suggest that in the mid-1660's, Newton did not think in terms of the moon's central attraction toward the earth but rather of the moon's centrifugal tendency to recede. Under the influence of the mechanical philosophy, Newton had yet to consider the possibility of action- at-a-distance; nor was he aware of Kepler's first two planetary hypotheses. For historical, philosophical, and mathematical reasons, Newton assumed the moon's centrifugal 'endeavour' to be equal and opposite to some unknown mechanical constraint. For the same reasons, he also assumed a circular orbit and an inverse square relation. The latter was derived from Kepler's third hypothesis (the square of a planet's orbital period is proportional to the cube of its mean distance from the sun), the formula for centrifugal force (the centrifugal force on a revolving body is proportional to the square of its velocity and inversely proportional to the radius of its orbit), and the assumption of circular orbits.

The next step was to test the inverse square relation against empirical data. To do this Newton, in effect, compared the restraint on the moon's 'endeavour' to recede with the observed rate of acceleration of falling objects on earth. The problem was to obtain accurate data. Assuming Galileo's estimate that the moon is 60 earth radii from the earth, the restraint on the moon should have been 1/3600 (1/602) of the gravitational acceleration on earth. But Newton's estimate of the size of the earth was too low, and his calculation showed the effect on the moon to be about 1/4000 of that on earth. As Newton later described it, the moon test answered 'pretty nearly.' But the figures for the moon were not exact, and Newton abandoned the problem.

In late 1679 and early 1680 an exchange of letters with Hooke renewed Newton's interest. In November 1679, nearly 15 years after the moon test, Hooke wrote Newton concerning a hypothesis presented in his Attempt to Prove the Motion of the Earth (1674). Here Hooke proposed that planetary orbits result from a tangential motion and 'an attractive motion towards the centrall body.' In later letters Hooke further specified a central attracting force that fell off with the square of distance. As a result of this exchange Newton rejected his earlier notion of centrifugal tendencies in favor of central attraction. Hooke's letters provided crucial insight. But in retrospect, if Hooke's intuitive power seems unparalleled, it never approached Newton's mathematical power in principle or in practice.

When Halley visited Cambridge in 1684, Newton had already demonstrated the relation between an inverse square attraction and elliptical orbits. To Halley's 'joy and amazement,' Newton apparently succeeded where he and others failed. With this, Halley's role shifted, and he proceeded to guide Newton toward publication. Halley personally financed the Principia and saw it through the press to publication in July 1687.

The Principia. Newton's masterpiece is divided into three books. Book I of the Principia begins with eight definitions and three axioms, the latter now known as Newton's laws of motion. No discussion of Newton would be complete without them: (1) Every body continues in its state of rest, or uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it (inertia). (2) The change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and is made in the direction of the straight line in which that force is impressed (F = ma). (3) To every action there is always an opposed and equal reaction. Following these axioms, Newton proceeds step by step with propositions, theorems, and problems.

In Book II of the Principia, Newton treats the Motion of bodies through resisting mediums as well as the motion of fluids themselves. Since Book II was not part of Newton's initial outline, it has traditionally seemed somewhat out of place. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that near the end of Book II (Section IX) Newton demonstrates that the vortices invoked by Descartes to explain planetary motion could not be self-sustaining; nor was the vortex theory consistent with Kepler's three planetary rules. The purpose of Book II then becomes clear. After discrediting Descartes' system, Newton concludes: 'How these motions are performed in free space without vortices, may be understood by the first book; and I shall now more fully treat of it in the following book.'

In Book III, subtitled the System of the World, Newton extended his three laws of motion to the frame of the world, finally demonstrating 'that there is a power of gravity tending to all bodies, proportional to the several quantities of matter which they contain.' Newton's law of universal gravitation states that F = G Mm/R2; that is, that all matter is mutually attracted with a force (F) proportional to the product of their masses (Mm) and inversely proportional to the square of distance (R2) between them. G is a constant whose value depends on the units used for mass and distance. To demonstrate the power of his theory, Newton used gravitational attraction to explain the motion of the planets and their moons, the precession of equinoxes, the action of the tides, and the motion of comets. In sum, Newton's universe united heaven and earth with a single set of laws. It became the physical and intellectual foundation of the modern world view.

Perhaps the most powerful and influential scientific treatise ever published, the Principia appeared in two further editions during Newton's lifetime, in 1713 and 1726.

Other Researches. Throughout his career Newton conducted research in theology and history with the same passion that he pursued alchemy and science. Although some historians have neglected Newton's nonscientific writings, there is little doubt of his devotion to these subjects, as his manuscripts amply attest. Newton's writings on theological and biblical subjects alone amount to about 1.3 million words, the equivalent of 20 of today's standard length books. Although these writings say little about Newtonian science, they tell us a good deal about Isaac Newton.

Newton's final gesture before death was to refuse the sacrament, a decision of some consequence in the 18th century. Although Newton was dutifully raised in the Protestant tradition his mature views on theology were neither Protestant, traditional, nor orthodox. In the privacy of his thoughts and writings, Newton rejected a host of doctrines he considered mystical, irrational, or superstitious. In a word, he was a Unitarian.

Newton's research outside of science--in theology, prophecy, and history--was a quest for coherence and unity. His passion was to unite knowledge and belief, to reconcile the Book of Nature with the Book of Scripture. But for all the elegance of his thought and the boldness of his quest, the riddle of Isaac Newton remained. In the end, Newton is as much an enigma to us as he was, no doubt, to himself.