Light and Sir Isaac Newton | University of Oxford

Light and Sir Isaac Newton

Professor Anthony Watts
St Hugh's College
St Margaret's Road

Mordan Hall

Lectures and seminars

Isaac Newton realised the importance of light to all living creatures, but he was at odds with a local Oxford scientist of the time, Robert Hooke. Despite their differences, we now know that both of them were correct in their perception of what light is. Both were interested in how living creatures exploit light to maintain their very existence.

But it took another 400 years until the amazing way in which nature has evolved very similar ways of converting light into a source of energy to fuel primitive bacteria-like cells, and also to act as a sensory response for survival in higher life forms. Here, Newton and Hooke’s ideas and this fascinating evolutionary connection will be explained pictorially.

Professor Anthony Watts is Professor of Biochemistry, Fellow and Vice Principal of St Hugh’s College. He is the Director of the Biological Solid State NWR Laboratory at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Editor of the European Biophysics Journal and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics and Royal Society of Biology.