Illustration of a man in a dark room, opening up a small hole in a wall to reveal a ray of light. The ray shines on a plate and is refracted into multiple colors. A table nearby shows various tools, books and a quill.

Isaac Newton performs an experiment to analyze how light is made up of a spectrum of different colors.

Over the next 20 years, Newton perfected his theory. To do so, he developed the basis for calculus, a branch of mathematics. Using mathematics, he showed that a single force keeps the planets in their orbits around the sun. He called this force gravity.

In 1687, Newton published Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, explaining the law of gravity and other workings of the universe. Nature, argued Newton, follows uniform laws. All motion in the universe can be measured and described mathematically.

To many people, Newton's work seemed to link the sciences of physics and astronomy with mathematics, just as gravity bound the universe together.

For more than 200 years Newton's laws held fast, until the early 1900s, when a revolution in physics once more transformed the way people saw the universe. Still, Newton's work, ranging from the laws of motion and gravity to mathematics, makes him one of the most influential scientists of all time.


  1. Recognize Ideologies How did the theories of Copernicus and Galileo change the way people understood the universe?
  2. Make Generalizations In what ways did the scientific method differ from earlier approaches to learning?
  3. Identify Cause and Effect What impact did Reformation ideas have on medicine?
  4. Synthesize How did Newton use the ideas of Plato?
  5. Infer How did the Reformation help spur the Scientific Revolution?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments