Sir Issac Newton was born to a poor family in Woolsthorpe, England on January 4,1642. At the time of Newton's birth, England had not adopted the Gregorian calendar and therefore his date of birth was recorded as Christmas Day, December 25 1642. He attended Trinity College in Cambridge, England only after it became apparent that he would never be a successful farmer. While there, he took interest in mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy.
While a student, Newton was forced to take a two year hiatus when plague closed Trinity college. At home, he continued to work with optics, using a prism to separate white light, and became the first person to argue that white light was a mixture of many types of rays, rather than a single entity. He continued working with light and color over the next few years, and published his findings in “Optics” in 1704.
Disturbed by the problems with telescopes at the time, he invented the reflecting telescope, grinding the mirror and building the tube himself. Relying on a mirror rather than lenses, the telescope presented a sharper image than refracting telescopes at the time. Modern techniques have reduced the problems caused by lenses, but large telescopes such as the use mirrors.
As a student, Newton studied the most advanced mathematical texts of his time. While on hiatus, he continued to study mathematics, laying the ground for differential and integral calculus. He united many techniques that had previously been considered separately, such as finding areas, tangents, and the lengths of curves. He wrote De Methodis Serierum et Fluxionum in 1671, but was unable to find a publisher.
Newton also established a cohesive scientific method, to be used across disciplines. Previous explorations of science varied depending on the field. Newton established a set format for experimentation still used today.
His most famous work came with the publication of his "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" ("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"), generally called Principia. In it, he determined the three laws of motion for the universe. The first describes how objects move at the same velocity unless an outside force acts upon it. His second law of motion provided a calculation for how forces interact. The force acting on an object is equal to the object's mass times the acceleration it undergoes. Newton's third law states that for every action in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
After his graduation, he began to teach at the college, and was appointed as the second Lucasian Chair there. Today, the chair is considered the most renowned academic chair in the world. In 1689, Newton was elected as a member of parliament for the university. In 1703, he was elected as president of the Royal Society, a fellowship of scientists that still exists today. He was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705. He never married. Newton died in 1727, at the age of 84. After his death, his body was moved to a more prominent place in Westminster Abbey. During the exhumation, large amounts of mercury were found in the scientist's system, likely due to his work with alchemy.
Leibniz was born in Leipzig, Saxony (now Germany), on July 1, 1646, four years after the birth of Newton. His father, Friedrich Leibnütz, was a lawyer and professor of moral philosophy at the University of Leipzig; Gottfried's mother, Catherina Schmuck, was Friedrich's third wife. Both sides of the family enjoyed social standing and scholarly reputations. Leibniz (who changed the spelling of his name) had a half-brother, Johann Friedrich; a half-sister, Anna Rosina; and a sister, Anna Catherina, whose son, Friedrich Simon Löffler, became his sole heir. His father died when he was six, but young Gottfried had already begun to demonstrate a passion for knowledge and omnivorous reading. He studied his father's library of classic, philosophical and religious...