Physics KS3/4: Sir Isaac Newton and the scientific method

Professor Brian Cox outlines the historical context of the era in which Newton began to be interested in the nature of the visible spectrum obtained using a prism.

He recreates Newton’s simple experiment that proved that the colours were the pure components of white light rather than being impurities.

He explains that Newton observed aspects of the world, came up with theories to explain them and then tested them with experiments.

He then looks at Newton’s 'Principia Mathematica', before concluding that science is about simplifying the complex world around us, creating controllable and repeatable experiments to test hypotheses, and then transferring understanding to the complex world outside the laboratory.

This short film is from the BBC series, Science Britannica.

Teacher Notes

Before showing this short film, ask your students to share in groups and write down what they already know about Sir Isaac Newton.

During the short film, they should write brief notes to explain the contribution that he made to the nature of science and scientific enquiry.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching physics at KS3, GCSE/KS4 and National 4/5 and Higher.

The topics discussed will support OCR, Edexcel, AQA,WJEC GCSE in GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 and Higher in Scotland.

More from Science Britannica:

How CERN helps us understand the Big Bang
John Tyndall and blue skies research
Who was Henry Cavendish?
Who was Humphry Davy?
William Perkin and making scientific discoveries by chance
Targeted research
Global warming resistant GM crops
John Hunter and public engagement in science