The full title of this seminal work is Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica or The mathematical principles of natural philosophy. Commonly known as the Principia, it is considered to be one of the most important single works in the history of modern science.
In Principia, Sir Isaac Newton formulated the three laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. These laws enabled him to explain a range of phenomena, including the motion of planets, moons and comets within the solar system, the behaviour of Earth's tides, the precession of the equinoxes and the irregularities in the moon's orbit.
Isaac Newton (1642–1727) is considered to be one of science’s most influential figures. Born into a Lincolnshire farming family, he was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. Newton was appointed Master of the Royal Mint in 1696 and President of the Royal Society in 1703 – a position he held for 22 years until his death. In 1705, he was knighted by Queen Anne, the first scientist to be so honoured for his work.
The Principia combined the ideas of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler into a single theory. It explained the underlying universal laws of the cosmos in mathematical terms. Newton's laws united heaven and earth, effectively ending the separation of the natural and the supernatural.
The work is divided into three books. The first contains eight definitions, three axioms – known as Newton's three laws of motion – and propositions, theorems and problems. The second book covers the motion of bodies through resisting mediums and the motions of fluids. The last book extends the three laws of motion into Newton's law of universal gravitation.
The Principia was first published in London in 1687. Edited by English astronomer and physicist Edmund Halley, it had an estimated print run of between 250 and 400 copies. The Library holds one of these copies.