Sensibly, Gleick, a well-known American science writer and author of the acclaimed Chaos, focuses a great deal on how such a transformation could happen to anyone with such humble beginnings at that time in British history. There is no doubt Newton's innate talent and genius but he was also lucky in that he had excellent schooling and through the intervention of a relative he was able to go to the University of Cambridge and went on to stay there most of his professional life. His mother supplied him with "a chamber pot; a notebook of 140 blank pages... a quart bottle and ink to fill it, candles for many long nights, and a lock for his desk". Try sending your child to university so equipped today.
Of course the critical achievements of Newton's life were in his scientific achievements and here is the real problem: how to explain them for the general reader when even academic mathematicians today find much of the detail of Newton's work hard to comprehend. This is largely because Newton did not have today's familiar technical language or standard units of measurement available to him; he really was exploring terra incognita and feeling his way. But this is exactly what Gleick manages to get over so well and there is so much more. Aside from it being an eminently accessible biography, illustrations, extensive notes, bibliography and index make this an invaluable source for anyone who wants to enter the wonderful and arcane world of Sir Isaac Newton. --Douglas Palmer
On WHAT JUST HAPPENED:
‘This collection of pieces originally published in The New York Times, is very special… Untangling anything from an interview with Microsoft is hard; putting it into context harder; making that readable, and even enjoyable, the work of a master. Gleick does it. It's a pleasure flying with him’ Charles Arthur, Independent
‘It's an important portrait of an age; a learned, witty, eclectic treatise, and it might even help you to slow down. So don't hang around – go out and buy it right now.’ Robert Macfarlane, Observer
‘Brilliantly dissects our unceasing daily struggle to squeeze as much as we can into the 1,400 minutes of the day.’ Sunday Times Books of the Year
About the Author
James Gleick was born in New York in 1954. He worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times. He is the bestselling author of Chaos, Genius, Faster, What Just Happened and a biography of Isaac Newton.