Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton (1642 -1727) by Godfrey Kneller

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that a particle attracts every other particle in the universe using a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.[note 1] This is a general physical law derived from empirical observations by what Isaac Newton called inductive reasoning.[1] It is a part of classical mechanics and was formulated in Newton's work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica ("the Principia"), first published on 5 July 1686. When Newton's book was presented in 1686 to the Royal Society, Robert Hooke made a claim that Newton had obtained the inverse square law from him.

Modern physicsEdit

In modern physics, the law states: Every point mass attracts every single other point mass by a force pointing along the line intersecting both points. The force is proportional to the product of the two masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.[2] Newton's law has since been superseded by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, but it continues to be used as an excellent approximation of the effects of gravity in most applications. Relativity is required only when there is a need for extreme precision, or when dealing with very strong gravitational fields, such as those found near extremely massive and dense objects, or at very close distances (such as Mercury's orbit around the Sun).

Notes Edit

  1. It was shown separately that large, spherically symmetrical masses attract and are attracted as if all their mass were concentrated at their centers, known as shell theorem.


  1. Isaac Newton: "In [experimental] philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena and afterwards rendered general by induction": "Principia", Book 3, General Scholium, at p.392 in Volume 2 of Andrew Motte's English translation published 1729.
  2. - Proposition 75, Theorem 35: p.956 - I.Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman, translators: Isaac Newton, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Preceded by A Guide to Newton's Principia, by I.Bernard Cohen. University of California Press 1999 ISBN 0-520-08816-6 ISBN 0-520-08817-4