From one of the best writers on science, a remarkable portrait of Isaac Newton. The man who changed our understanding of the universe, of science, and of faith. Isaac Newton was the chief architect of the modern world. He answered the ancient philosophical riddles of light and motion; he effectively discovered gravity; he salvaged the terms 'time' ...Read MoreFrom one of the best writers on science, a remarkable portrait of Isaac Newton. The man who changed our understanding of the universe, of science, and of faith. Isaac Newton was the chief architect of the modern world. He answered the ancient philosophical riddles of light and motion; he effectively discovered gravity; he salvaged the terms 'time', 'space', 'motion' and 'place' from the haze of everyday language, standardized them and married them, each to the other, constructing an edifice that made knowledge a thing of substance: quantative and exact. Creation, Newton demonstrated, unfolds from simple rules, patterns iterated over unlimited distances. What Newton learned remains the essence of what we know. Newton's laws are our laws. When we speak of momentum, of forces and masses, we are seeing the world as Newtonians. When we seek mathematical laws for economic cycles and human behaviour, we stand on Newton's shoulders. Our very deeming the universe as solvable is his legacy. This was the achievement of a reclusive professor, recondite theologian and fervent alchemist. A man who feared the light of exposure, shrank from controversy and seldom published his work. In his daily life he emulated the complex secrecy in which he saw the riddles of the universe encoded. His vision of nature was of its time; he never purged occult, hidden, mystical qualities. But he pushed open a door that led to a new universe.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 2003-03-31 Gleick's most renowned writing falls into one of two categories: vivid character studies or broad syntheses of scientific trends. Here, he fuses the two genres with a biography of the man who was emblematic of a new scientific paradigm, but this short study falls a bit short on both counts. The author aims to "ground this book as wholly as possible in its time; in the texts," and his narrative relies heavily on direct quotations from Newton's papers, extensively documented with more than 60 pages of notes. While his attention to historical detail is impressive, Gleick's narrative aims somewhere between academic and popular history, and his take on Newton feels a bit at arms-length, only matching the vibrancy of his Feynman biography at moments (particularly when describing Newton's disputes with such competitors as Robert Hooke or Leibniz). As might be expected, Gleick's descriptions of Newton's scientific breakthroughs are clear and engaging, and his book is strongest when discussing the shift to a mathematical view of the world that Newton championed. In the end, this is a perfectly serviceable overview of Newton's life and work, and will bring this chapter in the history of science to a broader audience, but it lacks the depth one hopes for from a writer of Gleick's abilities. Agent, Michael Carlisle. (May 16) Forecast: Despite the book's flaws, its brevity and Gleick's reputation may make this the perfect intro to Newton for readers new to him or to science. It could generate good sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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