Customer Reviews


31 Reviews
5 star:
 (15)
4 star:
 (12)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Newton and the Counterfeiter, Thomas Levenson. A fascinating look at a neglected period of Newton's life
When someone mentions Sir Isaac Newton, you immediately think of the father of science, the three laws of motion, apples and gravity, modern mathematics, the principle of optics, chemistry, theology etc, etc, etc. But what did he do after he had revolutionised modern thinking? It turns out he became the Warden of the Mint, responsible for guaranteeing the value of the...
Published on 26 Sept. 2009 by Victor

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A very slight tale, though interesting about the times.
Late in life, Sir Isaac Newton, left Cambridge and took a job as head of the Mint in London. Part of his job was to combat counterfeiters, and the story of Newton tracking one particular counterfeiter is the basis of this book. The author makes much of Newton's dogged pursuit of his quarry and his ruthlessness in condemning this man to jail. There seems to be general...
Published on 2 May 2012 by Hugh Claffey


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Newton and the Counterfeiter, Thomas Levenson. A fascinating look at a neglected period of Newton's life, 26 Sept. 2009
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When someone mentions Sir Isaac Newton, you immediately think of the father of science, the three laws of motion, apples and gravity, modern mathematics, the principle of optics, chemistry, theology etc, etc, etc. But what did he do after he had revolutionised modern thinking? It turns out he became the Warden of the Mint, responsible for guaranteeing the value of the currency, and for catching counterfeiters.

This part of his life is often neglected, when discussing Newton people tend to concentrate on his intellectual achievements, and his famous arguments with Hooke and Leibnitz. But the job of Warden of the Mint required no less intellect than his scientific studies, with the systems he set up to prevent counterfeiting, and his painstaking investigations that would send counterfeiters to the gallows.

This book details his entanglements with William Chaloner, the greatest counterfeiter of his day, a man of great powers who managed to evade capture for years, along the way even managed to cast doubt on Newton's powers and probity, and even tried to get himself inserted into the Mint!

This book reads a bit like a good thriller. There is a brief description of Newton's early life, leading up to his reasons for taking the job at the Mint. A description of the known facts of Chaloner's early life is given, then there follows the details of the battle between the two, as Newton struggled to bring his quarry to justice. Along the way we also learn much about the foundations of modern finance and banks, which were methods to solve economic problems that bear a strange resemblance to those faced in the current economic crisis! It's gripping stuff, and even better, it's all true. The book has been excellently researched, the author has drawn from a wide range of reliable documentary evidence to build his tale. It's not a dry biography however, it's written in a very accessible style.

I would highly recommend this book, it will appeal to all fans of good crime thrillers, or anyone interested in Newton and would like to know a bit more about the man himself. 5 Stars with no hesitation.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 30 Nov. 2009
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This is a very enjoyable book. It is very well-written by an intelligent, deeply knowledgeable author who knows how to tell a good story, and it brings the historical events and characters fascinatingly to life.

The first section of the book (nearly half of it) is a terrific potted biography of Isaac Newton, with a really good, comprehensible account of his character, intellectual development and achievements. I am a physicist by training, I have also studied History of Science and have read a great deal about Newton, some of which has been very good and some very bad. This is one of the best short accounts I have ever read - incisive and compellingly readable, it gives a really good insight into the man, the way he worked and what motivated him. On the second page, by the way, Levinson writes, "psychoanalysis at a distance of centuries is a fool's game." I was pretty sure I was in safe hands after reading that, and I was right.

All this is essential for understanding Newton's time at the Mint and his approach to the pursuit of counterfeiters. This story is also brilliantly told, with a fascinating, wonderfully accessible account of the economic problems of the time, how the coinage contributed to them and the birth of money as we know it (or think we know it) today. This is wrapped up in an enthralling narrative of, effectively, a detective pursuing a criminal and the cat-and-mouse tactics each employed.

I often find that biography or history struggles to hold my interest and attention for hundreds of pages. This did - it was scholarly, fascinating and thoroughly engaging. I found it had the effect of a really good novel, leaving me very keen to get back and read some more, and I recommend it in the strongest terms.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SAVAGE INTELLECT, 28 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Newton and the Counterfeiter (Paperback)
When master forger William Chaloner began his fight with Master of the Mint, Isaac Newton, he had no idea of the devil he was taking on. Only later, when it was too late, would he realise the height of his folly.

As Levenson, the erudite author of this book, says of the formidable Newton:

"The underworld had never confronted anyone like him, and most of its members were utterly unprepared to do battle with the most disciplined mind in Europe. "

This book focuses on a time in Newton's life that has only had peripheral coverage until now. Levenson does a great job in portraying aspects of life in 17th century England. And the prevailing currency situation is covered in depth. This may sound boring but it isn't. The author weaves it all into a coherent framework for understanding the background to Chaloner's activities.

Newton came to the Mint and found things in a bit of a mess. For him, it must have been like coming across a piece of shoddy Maths by a lazy and uncaring predecessor. Newton's mind would not tolerate such sloppiness and would resolve to tighten up the proof and make it secure. Just so with the Mint. Newton would prove to be singleminded and utterly relentless in pursuit of his new goal. No absent minded professor he!

Towards the end, the duel of wits between the two men became a game of cat and mouse. And Chaloner belatedly realised that Newton was not the mouse - contrary to the forger's initial rash assumption. Chaloner's initial hubris morphs by degrees into a final terror of the force he has unwittingly unleashed.

The author of this excellent book, Thomas Levenson, is a film-maker with ten science documentaries under his belt. He is also a Professor of Science Writing at MIT.

With this background surely the possibility of turning this book into a film could be explored? It would make for a great movie. And it would shake the cobwebs off the kindly old professor image that the public have of Newton.

Reality is often far more interesting and more brutal than fiction ever could be.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Isaac Newton as a sleuth, 23 Jan. 2010
By 
Christian Jongeneel (Rotterdam, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
Highlighting a lesser known episode from Isaac Newton's life this book was bound to be special anyway. Just reading about Newton's overhaul of the British financial is interesting enough. He himself probably thought of catching counterfeiters in the process as an annoying distraction, but this too required some very clever thinking.

Thomas Levenson, who has clearly done some thorough research on London society and politics at the end of the 17th century, chooses to revolve his story around one particular confrontation, Newton versus William Chaloner, a counterfeiter so cunning and daring he even accused Newton of incompetence. Which was not a very smart thing to do, given het effect it had on Newton's determination to bring him to the gallows.

Mr. Levenson deserves credit not only for his meticulous research, but also for the way he presents it. Mixing a matter-of-fact style with literary techniques, he succeeds in sketching a lively picture of both men and their respective businesses. Almost a novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Famous mathematician catches accomplished counterfeiter, 29 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This story has two main characters, one (the counterfeiter) more likeable than the other (Newton). The counterfeiter was a lad from the sticks on the make in London. He began counterfeiting in a small way (clipping silver coins), tried for the jackpot years later and in the end lost his head. Newton was a mathematical genius and a bore (at least in mathematics). As is well known he was something of a cheat and a bit of a snide. Newton studied at Cambridge University, became resident there and wrote during his residency his famous work on mathematics. Did he invent calculus? Well, that's another story. The counterfeiter lived off his wits and studied at that great university of life, the streets of London. In those days (the late-1600s), silver was more valuable than gold and large quantities of English silver coins were being sold in Continental Europe for more than could be bought with them in England. If you clipped silver coins, you could "harvest" enough to make another (albeit underweight) coin and pass it off as the real thing along with the other lightweights. The counterfeiter graduated from clipping silver coins to minting complete duds, so good that they passed for legitimate coinage in and around London. English coinage was in meltdown. Its debasement was almost complete when Newton arrived on the scene. He left Cambridge to head up the Royal Mint and set about in a disciplined way reorganising the Mint and building cases against counterfeiters, including our likely lad. Rather cheekily, the lad had offered at one point to reorganise operations at the Mint and stamp out the corruption there. Had he got his feet under that table, he would have been ideally placed to continue his counterfeiting from the inside. His offer was rejected by the government minister responsible for the Mint. Newton caught some of the smaller fry involved in counterfeiting but suffered several setbacks in his efforts to trap our likely lad. Eventually, Newton succeeded in closing the net on him. The book is not exactly a ripping yarn - with Newton as one of the main characters it could never be - but it is a great read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 5 Jan. 2010
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This is a very enjoyable book. It is very well-written by an intelligent, deeply knowledgeable author who knows how to tell a good story, and it brings the historical events and characters fascinatingly to life.

The first section of the book (nearly half of it) is a terrific potted biography of Isaac Newton, with a really good, comprehensible account of his character, intellectual development and achievements. I am a physicist by training, I have also studied History of Science and have read a great deal about Newton, some of which has been very good and some very bad. This is one of the best short accounts I have ever read - incisive and compellingly readable, it gives a really good insight into the man, the way he worked and what motivated him. On the second page, by the way, Levinson writes, "psychoanalysis at a distance of centuries is a fool's game." I was pretty sure I was in safe hands after reading that, and I was right.

All this is essential for understanding Newton's time at the Mint and his approach to the pursuit of counterfeiters. This story is also brilliantly told, with a fascinating, wonderfully accessible account of the economic problems of the time, how the coinage contributed to them and the birth of money as we know it (or think we know it) today. This is wrapped up in an enthralling narrative of, effectively, a detective pursuing a criminal and the cat-and-mouse tactics each employed.

I often find that biography or history struggles to hold my interest and attention for hundreds of pages. This did - it was scholarly, fascinating and thoroughly engaging. I found it had the effect of a really good novel, leaving me very keen to get back and read some more, and I recommend it in the strongest terms.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and educational, 13 Feb. 2011
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Newton and the Counterfeiter (Paperback)
For a scientific ignoramus like myself, the real interest of this book was in the description of Newton's scientific discoveries. These were explained in terms understandable by someone with little or no scientific education and I was fascinated to discover how much of what we now take for granted as common knowledge has its roots in Newtonian physics. I was also intrigued to discover that Newton was influential in developing methods of research that were the forerunners of those still used today.

I also enjoyed learning about the development of coinage and early paper currency, not to mention the precursor of the lottery! The enthusiasm of the Government to find ever more ways to extract money from the citizenry to pay for unpopular wars seemed to have an eerie familiarity...

Surprisingly, the bit I enjoyed least was the story of Newton's determination to convict William Chaloner. I felt this theme was given more importance than it merited - the general fight to stop counterfeiting was far more interesting than the history of this one man. However I came out of the book feeling distinctly better educated than when I went in and educated enjoyably at that.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A very slight tale, though interesting about the times., 2 May 2012
By 
Hugh Claffey (Co. Kildare Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Newton and the Counterfeiter (Paperback)
Late in life, Sir Isaac Newton, left Cambridge and took a job as head of the Mint in London. Part of his job was to combat counterfeiters, and the story of Newton tracking one particular counterfeiter is the basis of this book. The author makes much of Newton's dogged pursuit of his quarry and his ruthlessness in condemning this man to jail. There seems to be general surprise that Newton could be so practical and determined. I found the actual story quite slight, a bit Dan Brownish, but not quite so dull.
I don't want to condemn the book outright though, I found it very interesting in describing the times - the London society, its traders, its habits, even the backround on Newton. The one sentence I can still remember describes the approaches to London " [He] would have known he was getting close, when he passed the heaps of human and animal waste carted just outside the city every day and dumped along the roadways. Travellers gasped, covered their faces, sped by as fast as they could, gagging"
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 in 1, 23 Nov. 2011
By 
M. Baerends - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Newton and the Counterfeiter (Paperback)
Three for the price of one. A lively description of the late 17th century, a lot on Newton's life in general, and an interesting story on Newton's exploits at the Mint & his run-ins with a colorful bunch of forgers trying to 'fun' the government and the public. Well written, funny and informative. Good job.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A different side of Isaac Newton, 14 Jun. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Newton and the Counterfeiter (Paperback)
The fact that we are introduced to a part of Newton's life to which few have paid attention, is probably the biggest pull to this book. I would not say this is a gripping story, though. There is not much tension or drama in it. The author has tried to pull more out of the battle between Newton and Chaloner than there really was. Newton's "deadly struggle" with Chaloner was really only deadly for Chaloner, who risked being caught and executed for counterfeiting. As for Newton, it was all part of the job. However, it's an interesting read from a historical perspective. For those with an interest in the subject, but little background, this book provides a glimpse into some of the monetary troubles facing England in the late 17th century and the beginnings of the use of paper money. Basically, it's a look at Newton's successful time at the Royal Mint. And for all that, the book has done a great job. The brief biography of Newton in the first half of the book is worth reading, and I found particularly fascinating Newton's fervent wish to "prove" G-d through alchemy. An interesting subject worth further reading. Readers should just be forewarned that, although it's a good story, it's by no means a thriller. But that shouldn't discourage anyone from picking it up, for after all, it's an enjoyable little book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Newton and the Counterfeiter
Newton and the Counterfeiter by Thomas Levenson (Paperback - 5 Aug. 2010)
£9.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews