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Who would you consider a greater genius -- Einstein or Newton?

Personally, I consider Newton as a greater genius because I believe that Newton's influence was greater than Einstein's and without Newton's theory, Einstein's theory of relativity would have been impossible as far as I know.

I can't see how you can really compare the two. They lived in two different times, and had completely different information to use to actually create their accomplishments. Both obviously worked very hard, although if I had to pick one I would go with Newton, as I believe he would have surpassed Einstein's accomplishments if he had the information avialable to him as Einsteins did - although you can only speculate this.

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I'd pick Newton.

Since I first heard this quote:

I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

...and I thought of the radical and fundamental truths he did discover, I've wondered, what "ocean" of undiscovered truth could he be talking about ?

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I'd pick Newton.

Since I first heard this quote:

Except that it is a "quote" which you will not find in any of Newton's writings. It first appeared in print as an anectdote in 1820, loosely attributed to Newton "a little before he died." Like another famous quote attributed to Newton, it is dubious in nature and intended meaning.

...and I thought of the radical and fundamental truths he did discover, I've wondered, what "ocean" of undiscovered truth could he be talking about ?

Well, assuming, for the moment, the "quote" as being accurate, since Newton's writings on theology and alchemy far outstripped his scientific work, it would be reasonable to assume reference to religious "truth."

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Who would you consider a greater genius -- Einstein or Newton?

Personally, I consider Newton as a greater genius because I believe that Newton's influence was greater than Einstein's and without Newton's theory, Einstein's theory of relativity would have been impossible as far as I know.

Personally, from my point of view, Nikola Tesla has them both beat.
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Personally, from my point of view, Nikola Tesla has them both beat.

Newton. :confused:

Classical Mechanics

Calculus

Those are major contributions.

I consider him the greatest physicst, and possibly the greatest mathematician. Archimedes and Euler may have been better.

He was also a superb inventor. The reflective telescope. He also had the idea for a liquid mirror, which involved putting a reflective liquid in a container, and rotating it, which resulted in a perfectly parabolic shape. An ingenious idea, which some researchers are trying to make a reality today.

Newton could also explain, btw, how that parabolic shape was produced according to his three laws.

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I believe that if both Newton and Einstein were still around and we could ask them each who they considered to be the greater genius, they would both choose themselves.

But then Einstein would likely say to Newton something like: "Oh yeah? Und vat genius lost hees untire fortune in der South Sea booble in 1720!?

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Who would you consider a greater genius -- Einstein or Newton?

Personally, I consider Newton as a greater genius because I believe that Newton's influence was greater than Einstein's and without Newton's theory, Einstein's theory of relativity would have been impossible as far as I know.

I agree with you that Newton is greater genius......but only to the masses. I believe his theories well taught in schools have set the forum for all especially, the young to greater understand all the fundamentals of our Earth since the dropping of the apple.........As for Einstein who is my personal favorite. It is only because his theoretical knowledge is so far beyond many of the masses conventional thinking.........we tend to shy away from what we simply do not understand

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I agree with you that Newton is greater genius......but only to the masses.  I believe his theories well taught in schools have set the forum for all especially, the young to greater understand all the fundamentals of our Earth since the dropping of the apple.........As for Einstein who is my personal favorite. It is only because his theoretical knowledge is so far beyond many of the masses conventional thinking.........we tend to shy away from what we simply do not understand

And yet in 1919 Einstein was catapulted into world-wide celebrity fame as a result of his prediction of the deflection of light being experimentally verified by the Eddington expedition. Einstein's celebrity-status fame remained with him throughout his entire life, and by several accounts his remains the most recognizable face all over the world. So, if "the masses" were asked to choose between Einstein or Newton, I strongly suspect Einstein would be their choice.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought the Eddington measurement had been discredited. Wasn't it eventually found that the uncertainty in the measurement was larger than the effect they were trying to detect? Of course Einstein's theory was still confirmed by later, more accurate measurements.

Is this not the case?

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I thought the Eddington measurement had been discredited.  Wasn't it eventually found that the uncertainty in the measurement was larger than the effect they were trying to detect?

That is a distortion of fact that I have had the unpleasant experience of having to correct many times over the years. Here is a brief non-technical explanation of the facts that I once wrote.

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There were actually two exeditions sent to gather the data during the solar eclipse of May 29, 1919. One group was sent to Sobral in northern Brazil, while another went to the Isle of Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, off West Africa. In order to have the telescopes remain rigid, the stars were reflected into the telescope by a mirror which revolved at the proper rate with the cosmos.

The observers in the Principe expedition used a telescope such that on the photographs taken 1 sec. of arc was equal to about 1/1500 of an inch. Their observations were hampered by clouds in the skies, and of the 16 photographs taken and processed one was deemed suitable for measurement. The measurement was done with a micrometric measuring-machine, and after all appropriate allowances were made, the result clearly ruled out Newtonian predictions, and closely matched the prediction of general relativity. There were four unexposed plates which were brought back to England from the Principe expedition, and when these were later developed one plate was deemed clear enough to be measured, and again Einstein's predictions were met.

The source of the "rumour" you heard was undoubtedly the results from the second expedition, the one in Sobral in Brazil. The Sobral expedition used two telescopes, the first being similar to the one used at Principe. The photographic results from this telescope were very poor, most likely due to distortion of the mirror device which reflected the stars, brought on by heating. But these distorted images were later measured, anyway, in England, and the results seemed to favor the Newtonian deflection rather than Einstein's prediction. The score was two excellent plates from the Principe expedition favoring Einstein's prediction, versus several poor and distorted images from Sobral which agreed with Newton, not Einstein.

Although it is a strectch to equally pit measurements made from good quality photographs against poor ones, the tie-breaker had to be the results from the second telescope in Sobral. This was a longer scope than the others, and the photographic results were superb, easily eclipsing (pun intended) the quality of the results from the other two scopes. This group consisted on 7 excellent photographs, and measurements definitely confirmed that Einstein's predictions based on general relativity were absolutely correct afterall.

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I stand corrected.

It seems curious that this issue would be misrepresented, since the point of contention is apparently not whether the theory was validated but only when.

It only seems "curious" if you are not familiar with the history. Unfortunately, Einstein was plagued, both during his lifetime and afterwards, by those who sought to undercut his work and his character. It started in the late 'teens of the twentieth century, spurred on primarily by anti-Semitics whose purpose was to elevate "Aryan physics" above that of "Jewish physics." Not that all of those then were motivated by anti-Semitism, and not that that need be the primary motivation of those today; Einstein remains a prime target by many, for a variety of reasons. Some of those who would undercut the signifcance and value of the Eddington results seek to mis-characterize Einstein's fame at that time as being undeserving, and some have extended that sort of "reasoning" to question the validity of more that followed.

I know I got the "rumour" from either a professor or a textbook...

There are honest people who have only looked at a portion of the facts and have therefore reached the wrong conclusion. There are several texts that get a lot more wrong about Einstein and his work than just this.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Newton was a hack. Leibniz designed modern calculus, however Newton is often given credit for it. Newton in fact had a very crude style of calc which wasn't nearly as clean or easy to use, Leibniz proposed his ideas and Newton, who was a Sir by this time and very powerful, blocked certain publications and essentially took credit for Leibniz's work. His theories in physics (classical mechanics) aren't correct although they hold up for anything not close to the speed of light, so they're just crude predictions of what is to be expected to happen. Relativity alone is enough to put Einstein over Newton in every way imaginable, that's without mentioning his other achievements.

-Nate

edit: basically, so many people were coming up with ideas at the time, Newton just had the power and hi-jacked calculus. No newton, no problem, just different names.

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Newton didn't invent calculus?

I don't believe that for a second, nor does it make the remotest sense to call him a "hack". His work is original and, you are wrong, was done before Leibniz ever did his work. Newton had a habit of not publishing his work, in fact.

His physics isn't merely a collection of "crude predictions". It's a principled understanding of how things work. Newtonian physics is taught to this day and used to this day. Not only that, it's his classical mechanics that is primarily use by engineers.

Regarding his mathematical prowess.

There is an anecdote, call it the challenge of the brachistochrone. The mathematician Johann Bernoulli presented a problem in a mathematical journal for mathematicians in Europe to solve. The problem was to find a curve between two points, A and B, which would take the least amount of time for a ball to roll down. One point would have to be above the other, but could not be immediately above the other.

Mathematicians through out Europe worked on this, including Leibniz. He gave a 7 month deadline for the submission of answers. At the end of seven months only Leibniz had a solution.

However, they decided they would trouble Newton with the problem. There was quite a bit of contentiousness between Europeans and Newton at the time over the Newton/Leibniz controversy, and this was a way to poke fun at Newton. So they sent it to him. Newton received the challenge, and was annoyed by it. However, he worked on it and solved it in a matter of hours.

When Johann saw his solution he remarked "I recognize the lion by his paw."

When mathematicians and scientists saw Newton's work they recognized his genius. This is something you can't fake.

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Newton was a hack. Leibniz designed modern calculus, however Newton is often given credit for it. Newton in fact had a very crude style of calc which wasn't nearly as clean or easy to use, Leibniz proposed his ideas and Newton, who was a Sir by this time and very powerful, blocked certain publications and essentially took credit for Leibniz's work. His theories in physics (classical mechanics) aren't correct although they hold up for anything not close to the speed of light, so they're just crude predictions of what is to be expected to happen. Relativity alone is enough to put Einstein over Newton in every way imaginable, that's without mentioning his other achievements.

-Nate

edit: basically, so many people were coming up with ideas at the time, Newton just had the power and hi-jacked calculus. No newton, no problem, just different names.

Newton invented calculus BEFORE Leibniz. Leibniz only published his work first. Newton was no hack. No matter what his faults, he was a genius and laid the foundation for modern science.

Newton's laws are NOT crude predictions. Even now, his law of gravity is used for launching satellites, not Einstein's general relativity because the difference between the results is minimal.

Even Einstein could not have written down his laws without Newton's base.

Remember, in Newton's time, even the speed of light was not known, much less that its speed is the same in all frames of reference.

Newton was an extremely creative person even though he had many irrational binges. You cannot say that Einstein was greater than Newton just because Einstein's work is more accurate in its predictions without considering the context. That would be like saying that the man who invented the machine gun was superior to the man who invented the gun in the first place or that the man who invented colored TV was superior to the man who invented TV.

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It saddens me to see the power of modern philosophy. The message "there are no heroes" pervades the culture. Newton, Jefferson, Gates,...

I don't know what you're talking about...my opinion is based completely on what I've learned in 4 years of using a lot of calc and a lot of physics. No Newton = no real loss, no Einstein and all satellites would do would be pretty little objects floating around showing off to the world. Besides, LaGrange equations are so much more useful that Newton's equations...try it sometime. I'm not a philosophy buff, I go on what I see. The "Newton was a hack" was a little harsh, but he certainly gets too much credit.

-Nate

TV to color TV? I say it's more comparable to the people who said we had a geocentric universe to the people who realized that wasn't the case, or those who said the world was flat to the realization that it was in fact spherical.

edit #2: As an engineer I rarely use Newtons Equations. Like I said earlier, his calc style was not similar to what we use today, at all, it would obviously be recognizable. It's also funny to me, I had a problem with this post and went and talked it over with one of my professors and a few friends (engineers, math and physics majors, yes I'm a nerd) The "vote" was unanomys for Einstein.

-Nate

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I don't know what you're talking about...my opinion is based completely on what I've learned in 4 years of using a lot of calc and a lot of physics. No Newton = no real loss, no Einstein and all satellites would do would be pretty little objects floating around showing off to the world.

Tommy is right, no Newton, no Einstein.

Besides, LaGrange equations are so much more useful that Newton's equations
LaGrange lived about 100 years after Newton, and his equations were based on the principles of calculus.

...try it sometime. I'm not a philosophy buff, I go on what I see. The "Newton was a hack" was a little harsh, but he certainly gets too much credit.

Pierre-Simon Laplace said of him "Newton is the greatest genius that ever existed, and the most fortunate, for we cannot find more than once a system of the world to establish."

TV to color TV? I say it's more comparable to the people who said we had a geocentric universe to the people who realized that wasn't the case, or those who said the world was flat to the realization that it was in fact spherical.

I'm waiting for all of those sky scrapers and bridges to collapse.

Try this physics forum, and find out the respect and admiration Newton has there.

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  LaGrange lived about 100 years after Newton, and his equations were based on the principles of calculus.

 

I think we can agree that calculus was invented independly of newton, and in the method that we use today, that we use in the...LaGrange equations. Honestly, use them for a while and one might want to punch Newton in the face. I have pages of work that can be summed up in 5 lines by the lagrange equations. The problem is, most people can't do LaGrange because they don't understand calc, and therefore don't see how much better it can be. I respect Newton, alright, I was wrong in calling him a hack, but he is getting credit where it is not due. He was a genius but not the genius Einstein was.

-Nate

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