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Introduction to Newton's Laws of Motion


Introduction to Newton's Laws of Motion

Sir Isaac Newton (1689, by Godfrey Kneller)

Each law of motion (three in total) that Newton developed has significant mathematical and physical interpretations that are needed to understand the motion of objects in our universe. The applications of these laws of motion are truly limitless.

Essentially, these laws define the means by which motion changes, specifically the way in which those changes in motion are related to force and mass.

Origins of Newton's Laws of Motion

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was a British physicist who, in many respects, can be viewed as the greatest physicist of all time. Though there were some predecessors of note, such as Archimedes, Copernicus, and Galileo, it was Newton who truly exemplified the method of scientific inquiry that would be adopted throughout the ages.

For nearly a century, Aristotle's description of the physical universe had proven to be inadequate to describe the nature of movement (or the movement of nature, if you will). Newton tackled the problem and came up with three general rules about the movement of objects which have been dubbed by posterity Newton's three laws of motion.

In 1687, Newton introduced the three laws in his book Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), which is generally referred to as the Principia, where he also introduced his theory of universal gravitation, thus laying down the entire foundation of classical mechanics in one volume.

Three Laws of Motion

Working with Newton's Laws of Motion

  • Free Body Diagrams are the means by which you can track the different forces acting on an object and, therefore, determine the final acceleration.
  • Introduction to Vector Mathematics is used to keep track of the directions and magnitudes of the various components of the forces & accelerations involved.
  • Know Your Variables discussed how best to use your knowledge of variable equations to prepare for physics tests.
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