School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow upshow/hide menu

Ask A Biologist heading

Sir Isaac Newton: Discoveries

show/hide words to know

  • Gravity: the attraction of one body to another. Gravity gives objects weight and causes them to fall to the ground if dropped... more
  • Physics: the part of science that deals with properties, changes, and interactions of matter and energy... more

I thought Newton just discovered gravity

isaac newton illustration

Yes, Sir Isaac Newton is best known for his work on gravity. He also worked on and discovered many other scientific wonders during his lifetime (1642-1727). His work in physics was so advanced that he was the first scientist to be knighted, which is a great honor in England and the reason "Sir" preceeds his name.

So what else did Sir Isaac Newton discover?

Besides his work on universal gravitation (gravity), Newton developed the three laws of motion which form the basic principles of modern physics. His discovery of calculus led the way to more powerful methods of solving mathematical problems. His work in optics included the study of white light and the discovery of the color spectrum. It was his experiments with light that first made him famous.

How did he discover the color spectrum?

Newton performed an experiment using a glass prism. For the experiment he placed a glass prism in front of a beam of light projected through a tiny hole in a window shade. You can perform a virtual version of the experiment below. You just need to place the mouse cursor over the prism to darken the room and reveal the color spectrum.

prism mouse-over

Newton's Discovery of the Refraction of Light

Painting of Newton's Discovery of the Refraction of Light by Pelagio Palagi (1827).

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow up  Learn More

Newton's Discovery of the Refraction of Light

Painting of Newton's Discovery of the Refraction of Light by Pelagio Palagi (1827).

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.