Asking questions about the world around us is how many scientific theories begin, just like when Isaac Newton asked why the apple fell downwards and he ended up discovering gravity!
Learn about Isaac Newton (1643–1727) - English scientist, mathematician and astronomer, now widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time. In his three famous books, known as the ‘Principia’, he outlined his theory of gravity, his laws of motion, and a new type of maths called calculus. He is also famous for his work on light and colour, and for inventing the reflecting telescope.
- Isaac was inspired to form his theory of gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree on his family farm. He wondered why it fell down and not up or across. Although stories abound, the apple didn’t actually fall on Isaac’s head!
- Isaac was friends with the astronomer Edmond Halley (best known for working out the orbit of Halley’s Comet). Edmond paid for the ‘Principia’ to be published.
- When Tim Peake spent six months working on the International Space Station in 2015/16, the mission was called ‘Principia’ after Isaac’s famous books on gravity.
Favourite Isaac Newton Quotes
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
“To myself I seem to have been only like a boy… finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
A Short Biography of Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton was born in 1643 in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England. He never knew his father (also called Isaac Newton), who had died three months earlier. When Isaac was three, his mother remarried and Isaac went to live with his grandparents.
Isaac had a lonely childhood, and in his adult life preferred to live alone. He never married. During his teenage years, his went to The King’s School, Grantham. His mother hoped he’d become a farmer like his father, but he preferred to study and make sundials in his spare time!
At 18, Isaac went to Cambridge University. His mother refused to fund his education, so he worked as a servant alongside his studies, to get by. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1665.
During the Great Plague (1665–1667), Cambridge University closed temporarily as a precaution. Isaac went home and during those two years, studied maths, physics, optics and astronomy. He read many books but was also inspired by the world around him.
In 1669, Isaac was appointed professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. He worked there for over 30 years, and during this time published the ‘Principia’ (1687). The three books took him two years to write but over 20 years to research.
Isaac’s theory of gravity explained the pulling force that keeps your feet on the ground and the planets in orbit around the Sun. Isaac suggested that two objects are attracted to each another and that the greater the mass of each object, the greater the pull (or attraction).
Isaac’s three laws of motion explained the movement of objects around us. Isaac said that an object keeps moving in the same direction unless a force makes it change direction or speed; that the greater the mass of the object, the bigger the force needed to move it; and that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Isaac’s legacy lives on in physics today – forces are measured in ‘Newtons’, for example.
Isaac also outlined a new type of mathematics called calculus, which is commonly used in engineering to describe the rate at which things change. Isaac was known for his bad temper and had a longstanding feud with Leibniz, a philosopher and mathematician, about who invented calculus. Today, it is widely accepted that both men arrived at their conclusions independently.
Isaac was also interested in light and colour. He discovered that when white light shines through a prism it splits into a range of colours, and he invented the reflecting telescope (using mirrors instead of lenses to create a smaller, more powerful design).
Isaac became president of the Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific institution, and was elected to represent Cambridge University as a member of parliament. He spent the last 30 years of his life in London, where he also became Master of the Royal Mint (a company that produces the UK’s coinage) and was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705 for his contributions to science.
Isaac died in his sleep in 1727, aged 84. He was the first scientist to be buried at Westminster Abbey, in recognition of a life’s work that had changed our understanding of the world forever.
Our Isaac Newton Resources
How much do your children know about gravity? Test them with this fun cloze worksheet. Read the text and fill in the missing words from the word bank.
This useful little booklet is perfect for writing down some facts about Isaac Newton. We have similar printable booklets for other famous people, including other scientists, so why not build a small library?
Practise comprehension skills with this worksheet all about Sir Isaac Newton, and the children will learn a little about his life too...
Sir Isaac Newton is one of the most influential scientists of all time. Read our factsheet as an introduction to the work and life of this incredible man.
Asking questions is a great way for children to build critical thinking skills. Can they imagine they are a talk show host interviewing Sir Isaac Newton and think of some great questions to ask him?
Perhaps the children could use this newspaper writing prompt to write about Isaac Newton discovering gravity, or his three laws of motion.
Our Isaac Newton notebooking pages are a good way for older children to document their research on this great scientist.
"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." This poster features a famous quote by scientist Sir Isaac Newton, set against a stunning backdrop of stars.
Introduce the kids to one of the most famous scientists of all time, Sir Isaac Newton, with this fun quote worksheet.
Children can use our Isaac Newton story paper to write a short biography, or maybe use it for some creative writing. We have two versions, lined and with handwriting lines.
Use this story paper featuring a portrait of Sir Isaac Newton for writing down some interesting facts about the famous scientist, or write down about a scientific experiment you may have tried yourself?
Isaac Newton made lots of important scientific discoveries throughout his career. Can the children add these discoveries, and other important moments in his life onto this timeline worksheet?
There are 15 words all about Sir Isaac Newton hidden in our word search grid, and some of them are quite tricky to find! We've included the answers to help if you're stuck...
Here's a fun science worksheet to get the kids thinking! Can they imagine they are Isaac Newton watching an apple fall from a tree, then describe what they saw and the questions it made them think about?