Newton's Discovery of the Refraction of Light

Episode Eleven – Newton’s Achievements


The “Perfect Coin”

Newton was Warden of the England’s Royal Mint and was thus responsible for trying to minimize the counterfeiting of English coins.

Counterfeiting was a major problem. In the late 1600’s, England’s financial system was in dire trouble. England’s’ currency was composed of silver coins. The coins value was often worth more than the assigned value of the coins.

This led to people melting down or clipping silver from the edges to sell to France. As a result, many of the remaining coins were a badly damaged mass of unrecognizable silver chunks. Which was good news for counterfeiters, as it made it very easy to pass off some very non-coin like objects as coins.

So what did Newton do to solve this problem?

He went undercover, investigated, and apprehended the counterfeiters himself. This drew him to many different corners of Britain in his zeal to stamp out the illegal activity. So, basically, Newton when out and acted as a kind of Batman, investigating and apprehending counterfeiters.

Armed with a good understanding of all this counterfeiting activity, he recalled all the coins and had them melted down and reforged into a new design.

This was a pretty bold move, considering the entire country had to go without coins for an entire year. The result was a higher-quality coin with a harder to counterfeit design.

How did this work? Well, the coins you have in your country likely have those grooves/ridges on them that many coins in many countries have. Newton introduced this so that that it was impossible to mill the coin without it being detected. Thus greatly reducing the counterfeiting of silver coins.

A simple thing, but very effective.

older Newton

Here is an older Newton.


Alright, that covers most of his more interesting or significant contributions to science and one more interesting contribution to justice. As mentioned at the start, this is not an exhaustive list, but a brief overview of his considerable contributions.

How might one sum them up? Well, he created one of the most important mathematical techniques yet created, calculus. He helped prove the immense power of induction combined with mathematical reasoning. And how these can help one discover a great deal about the world around them.

He helped create physics as a true science. Before him, physics, as a field of study of the fundamental nature of reality, conducted through experimentation and reason, was largely non-existent. He helped show the universal power of what would come to be known as the scientific method and helped usher in physics qua science.

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