January 4th is the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton; Woolsthorpe, England (1643).
He was born very prematurely and so small that it was said that he could fit into a quart pot. His father had died three months before Newton was born, and the plan was for the boy to take over the running of the family farm when he grew up. He wasn't a good farmer, and his uncle suggested that he be sent to the university instead. He went to Cambridge, and when it was shut down during a plague outbreak, Newton went home and studied mathematics and physics on his own. It was during this time that he first developed his theories of gravity and optics. His first published scientific achievement was the invention of a reflecting telescope.
At the age of 43, Newton published his Principia, which overturned nearly everything humankind had believed about the universe up to that point. He proved that the celestial bodies were governed by the same laws of physics as objects on Earth. He incorporated Kepler's laws of planetary motion into his own theories about gravity, and established his own Three Laws of Motion.
Sir Isaac Newton, who wrote, "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
For those following the recent thread about Westminster Abbey,
Newton is buried there in Scientists' corner, close to Charles Darwin, and more recently, Steven Hawking.