Sir Isaac Newton: Groovy In His Own Way

Sir Isaac Newton—about his life, said it best, “I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Sir Isaac Newton: Groovy In His Own Way

Many STEMists can identify with Sir Isaac Newton.  Like any modern-day STEMist, Sir Isaac Newton was driven by investigation and a quest for truth—wanting to know how things work and why they work. And, if he found no answer, then he created a way to find one, such as when he developed integral and differential calculus to help determine why planets have an elliptical orbit.

Young Sir Isaac Newton

Newton was born on January 4, 1643, in Woolsthrope, Lincolnshire, England.  Sadly, Isaac Newton never knew his father, who died just three months before Newton was born.

Young Sir Isaac NewtonSoon after, his mother remarried and left Newton with his grandparents. In his preteen years, Newton lived with a local apothecary (pharmacist) where he learned about the fascinating world of chemistry.   It was after her second husband died that Newton’s mother returned for him, along with three half-siblings.  His mother pulled him out of school so he could be a farmer, just as his father was.  Newton, however, found farming to be dull, and he did not do it well.

Universal Law of Gravitation and Laws of Motion

When he was 18 years old, Newton found his passion for mathematics, astronomy, physics and optics while he attended Cambridge University. As time passed, Isaac Newton made many discoveries in each of his passions. However, he is most noted for discovering the Universal Law of Gravitation and Laws of Motion, as published in the 1687, in “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” where he explains:

  • Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy by Sir Isaac NewtonThe first law (law of inertia) – “An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
  • The second law states that acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass – therefore, the greater the mass of the object, the greater the force required to accelerate it.
  • The third law – “for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction.”

And, although these ideas are centuries old, they are still relevant today, as Neil deGrasse Tyson,  American astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, explains in his video with Big Think:

A Career in Mechanical Engineering

So, how would groovy STEMists of Newtonian thinking choose a career path?  Mechanical engineering as a career will give STEMists many options of industries and type of work to choose.  Mechanical engineers work mostly in engineering services, research and development, manufacturing industries, and the federal government. They design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, engines and machines.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for mechanical engineers was $80,580 (May 2012). STEMists who become mechanical engineers can work in various engineering industries, including:

Women in mechanical engineering

Gretchen Christenson, KU sr. studying mechanical engineering is on the chassis team of the KU Formula car team, a mechanical engineering senior design project. Photo courtesy:


  • Aerospace– designs, manufactures, researches, operates and maintains aircraft
  • Automotive– designs, manufactures, distributes and markets motor vehicles
  • Chemical– covers oil companies, chemicals manufacturers and the businesses that support them
  • Construction– designs and builds infrastructure, buildings and buildings services such as heating and ventilation
  • Consumer goods industry– manufactures products such as household cleaning items, personal hygiene goods and convenience foods
  • Defense – provides equipment, support and services for the armed forces and national security
  • Electronics – designs and manufactures components and installs equipment for various engineering sectors
  • Marine– develops and helps operate boats/ships
  • Materials and metals– develop new materials and manufacture components or end products
  • Pharmaceuticals – develops and manufactures drugs/medication
  • Rail– designs, constructs, manages and maintains rail system components from trains and tracks to electrical power systems and train control systems
  • Utilities – helps supply power, water, waste management and telecoms.

Mechanical engineers are not tied to the industries above. They also can find themselves working in finance, information technology and education.  Or, Groovy STEMists may land a job on Mars through the Mars One mission plan!  By 2024, the plan will set up an outpost where human crew will live and work.  The Mars colony will need workers who have the skills to build and maintain transit vehicles and rovers, life support units that generate energy, water and breathable air, and more!

Mars 1 Mission

Get your STEMists on their way to achieving Newtonian grooviness with a Groovy Lab in a Box monthly-themed subscription.  Your STEMists will try their hand at mechanical engineering, and explore more of Newton’s Third Law with this month’s “Pull Your Weight” box. Order your Groovy box today!

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