During the bubonic plague pandemic in the 17th century, a refugee in his woolsthorpe country home, Isaac Newton conceived the idea of universal gravitation. It is said that when he saw an apple fall he wondered whether the force that attracted the apple to Earth would be the same as that which keeps the Moon in orbit around our planet. «In those two years he also experimented with light; discovered that white light is the sum of light of all the colors present in the rainbow. He formulated a theory for the nature of light. In addition, he began a path that took him years later to develop infinitesimal calculus, an essential element to prove his law of universal gravitation,» says astronomer José Maza.
But what’s behind these discoveries? What scientific and personal efforts were necessary for Newton to develop this physical law that would be fundamental to understanding and studying the universe?
Five huge thinkers were the ones who allowed Newton to discover the laws governing the movements of bodies. Claudio Ptolemy, Nicholas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei were the scientists on which the figure of Newton was raised, six stories that Professor José Maza recounts in Under the Mantle of Urania.
Urania, the muse of astronomy
In his new book, the Exact National Science Prize synthesizes the millennia of search that culminated in the finding that forever changed the way we think about our position in the universe. Under the mantle of Urania summarizes the contents that Maza has taught for years at the School of Engineering and Sciences of the University of Chile. «This book is an improved and enriched version of the notes I prepared for my students,» says the astronomer and researcher at the Center for Astrophysics and Related Technologies (CATA).
According to Marza, «before Copernicus science was not separated from the other branches of philosophy. After Newton, science emerges with its own rules and methods of inquiry. After Newton there was the industrial revolution in England and Europe, and electromagnetism emerged in the 19th century, the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, electronics, etc. The world today departs with Isaac Newton,» the author says.
Urania, the muse of astronomy, is the one who has guided the dreams of so many people in history and under her mantle (heaven), science has sheltered in search of the mysteries of the cosmos. Join us, by his hand and that of José Maza, to learn how humanity went from the devoted observation of the celestial vault to establishing the laws of governing its cycles, in this surprising and beautiful journey in time and space.