Family Science Club

Pointing to the Author of Science


Simple wooden model of a trebuchet, 2016

Image: A working model of a trebuchet. Taken by Kevin Weaver

Some Things from the Childhood of Sir Isaac Newton, 1642-1727

Sir Isaac Newton was a scientist who explained the physics of how rockets work. He discovered the Three Laws of Motion and the Law of Universal Gravitation. Scientists today depend on his work to help them send satellites and probes into space.

Here we present Sir Isaac Newton as a child. This information was gleaned from Sir Isaac Newton, written by John Hudson Tiner.

Sir Isaac Newton Jr. was born prematurely, on Christmas day, 1642. The family was not sure that he would survive. His father had died of illness. Isaac Newton Sr. left his family with Woolsthorpe Manor, a small farm in Britain. Isaac's mother, Hannah, and Grandmother, Ayscough, found it difficult to keep the farm going. His uncle, William, helped out but he had his own home and family to care for.

When Isaac was three years old his mother remarried. Barnabas Smith was the Vicar of North Witham parish. He was a wealthy man with a good reputation. Hannah Newton agreed to marry him if he agreed to restore Woolsthorpe Manor to a working farm.

The Vicar was an older man who had never married before. He wasn't used to having children around and did not think he could manage a child Isaac's age. So, Isaac continued to live with his grandmother at the farm. This was a serious oversight on Vicar Smith's part. Isaac was quite confused and upset with the arrangement. The boy had trouble understanding why his mother had to live without him. She did not live very far away and she visited often. Yet Isaac held many angry thoughts. It took him a while to forgive his stepfather.

Yet, Isaac did learn to be independent at a young age. He would walk all the way to town to visit his mother.

Even as a child, Isaac liked to work with his hands. His interest in chemistry began as he helped his grandmother make herbal medicines. He collected his own herbs as well as flowers to dry and stones of different types. He had the privilege of living surrounded by nature in the country. He drew pictures of the things he saw and mixed his own paints to paint with from the things he could gather.

Isaac also had a deep love for reading. Isaac read the Bible and noted his observations. He even borrowed theological books from his stepfather's library.

One of his most impressive pastimes was making working models. He crafted various things like windmills, carts and houses. He used arithmetic to work out the different sizes of components. He also made equipment and performed experiments. Perhaps he gained an interest from the farm's renovations.

At the age of eleven Isaac started attending the King's School in Grantham. His Bible knowledge and mechanical skill had convinced his uncles to encourage a better education. To Isaac's delight, he moved in with an apothecary named Ralf Clark. He was inquisitive about all the herbs and chemicals in his shop. He also took advantage of the Clark's library. They had books on a variety of topics.

Isaac continued to make his models; an example was a mill that was worked by mice to grind wheat into flower. He created a comet with a lantern and a kite that was realistic enough to scare neighbors. He often repaired toys as a favor to Ralf Clark's daughter as well. He had his own collection of tools.

Unfortunately his own projects often interfered with his schooling. Many subjects just did not interest him enough. However, that soon changed. Isaac was small for his age. He was often harassed by bullies. Isaac could ignore them for the most part. At least one persisted, but Isaac realized that he could outsmart him. He was able to avoid his blows and catch him off balance. Isaac developed a competitive attitude. He had discovered the value of doing well in school. He poured himself into his studies; mastering every subject. Isaac ended up not only at the top of his class but at the top of his school!

At fifteen he went back to the farm. His stepfather had died and his mother needed his help to run Woolsthorpe. His mind was elsewhere, though. He had the curious mind of a scholar. He loved to learn new things and farming did not change much.

After a few years his mother consented to let him continue his education. He finished at King's School retaining his place at the top of the school.