Who was the father of physics?
We all hear about physics, but few understand how it works. We have countless individuals we view as fathers of physics who have enhanced our understanding of our world over time.
From the behavior of tiny subatomic particles that comprise our universe to the motion of planets and stars, physics studies the physical world around us.
Everywhere there is physics. It permeates the cosmos. It’s in the galaxies’ supermassive black holes and the tiny basic building blocks of life on Earth. And it’s even in the seemingly empty space around us.
Every once in a while, a physicist comes along who forever changes our perception of the universe. Each of these individuals made significant contributions upon which the next generation built.
Five who could be the Father of Physics
Because of this, it isn’t easy to assess which of these brilliant physicists had the most impact. And as we all know, popularity doesn’t always equate to the most critical accomplishment.
With this in mind, here are five candidates who might be considered the father of physics.
Anaximander (610 BC – 546 BC)
Philosophers and deeper thinkers were considered scientists in ancient times. Many of their theories were untested since there were few tools in the form of lab equipment and instrumentation to test them. Despite being easy to disregard, some of these theories laid the groundwork for physics’ future.
Anaximander was the first person in recorded history to recognize that the Earth exists as a solitary body 2,600 years ago. In other words, it did not have to rest on anything else. In his fascination with the Earth’s structure, he created the first map of the world.
His thinking went beyond astronomy and geography. Additionally, he theorized about evolution, concluding that life had first evolved in wet conditions as opposed to dry conditions. He suggested that humans originated from fish.
While few of us today have heard of Anaximander, he was highly respected during his time on Earth. And it’s hard to argue that he didn’t lay some solid foundations for future physicists.
Archimedes (287 BC – 212 BC)
Archimedes’ contributions to science and engineering are far better known than those of Anaximander. Mathematically, he was considered the greatest of his time. He revolutionized geometry, and his methods led to integral calculus.
Among the machines that Archimedes invented were pulleys and the Archimedean screw pumping device. They were used to defend Syracuse against the Roman invasion. But it was his inventions related to warfare that made him so famous.
Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642)
It was Galileo who used a telescope to study the sky for the first time. In addition to finding that moons circled other planets, he was the first person to see Jupiter’s four largest moons. He also discovered that Venus has phases like our moon. This was significant as the first practical evidence that the sun is at the center of the solar system, rather than mathematical evidence. And he formulated the Law of the Pendulum.
In addition, Galileo discovered that gravity accelerates all objects equally, regardless of mass. As a result, the acceleration of an object by gravity is proportional to the square of the time it has been falling.
He developed the notion of inertia. That is, he discovered Newton’s First Law of Motion. Aristotle’s mistaken physics had dominated Western thought for two millennia until Newton’s discoveries in mechanics changed that.
Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630)
In his discovery that heavenly bodies follow elliptical paths, Johannes Kepler broke the tradition of thousands of years of astronomy. Kepler’s laws of planetary motion revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos. Isaac Newton discovered the inverse square law of gravitation using Kepler’s third law.
Kepler discovered the inverse square law of light intensity himself. According to him, our eyes invert images, and our brains correct them. First, to prove how logarithms work, he allowed scientists to use these fundamental tools without feeling anxious.
Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727)
Newton invented calculus, the mathematics of change, without which we would not understand the behavior of objects as small as electrons or as large as galaxies. A very influential scientific book is his Principia, perhaps the most famous of all his works. In Principia, Newton explained gravity and motion using mathematics. His revolutionary physics was initially difficult to understand.
He formulated the three laws of motion – Newton’s Laws – which lie at the core of the science of motion. The law of universal gravitation was discovered by Newton, proving that the moon orbits the Earth for the same reason as an apple falls from a tree. He also proved that sunlight consists of all of the colors of the rainbow, and he built the world’s first working reflecting telescope.
Quite frankly, it would probably be safe to say Isaac Newton is considered by most to be the true Father of Physics – although that statement doesn’t come without debate.