Impressive as all that, what truly separates Newton from other luminaries was his unparalleled creativity. He created multiple tools that simply never existed before. For example, in order to study acceleration, the change in velocity, a tool beyond basic algebra was required. That tool, called the derivative, is the most basic function in calculus. It didn’t exist in the 17th Century. Newton invented it.

In order to find the area beneath a curve, another tool beyond basic algebra was needed. That tool, called integration, is the second most basic function in calculus. Like the derivative, it did not exist in the 17th Century. So, Newton invented it. He also invented a reflecting telescope and the ridges on coins, which serve as an anti-theft measure that prevents “coin clipping.”

Newton’s inventiveness is perhaps best summarized by the epigraph to Gleick’s biography, which was written by his niece’s husband in 1726:

I asked him where he had it made, he said he made it himself, & when I asked him where he got his tools said he made them himself & laughing added if I had staid for other people to make my tools & things for me, I had never made anything…