Isaac Newton Audio CD – Audiobook, 1 May 2003
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It is a brave writer who tackles a biography of the world famous pioneer mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton and James Gleick has acquitted himself superbly well in his new bookIsaac Newton. Accolades to Newton were piling up even during his early lifetime in the 17th century when such fame was usually confined to royalty, popes and archbishops and certainly not to ordinary mortals born in 1642 of yeomen stock in deepest rural England. According to Gleick, Newton was the first person whose attainment "lay in the realm of the mind" to have a state funeral and be buried in Westminster Abbey. A Latin inscription proclaimed his "strength of mind almost divine" with "mathematical principles peculiarly his own" and declared that "mortals rejoice that there has existed so great an ornament of the human race"--not bad for a farm boy from Lincolnshire.
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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
'The book has the magic of a wonderful laboratory experiment…A masterpiece of clarity – so difficult to write, so easy to read.' Michael Holroyd
'A fresh and brilliant portrait of his personality and life, the people who mattered to him, the influences which played on him, and the contexts of his achievements.' Oliver Sacks
'After reading Jim Gleick's beautifully written and intimate portrait of Newton, I felt as is I'd spent an evening by the fire with that complex and troubled genius.' Alan Lightman
'It's beautifully paced and very stylishly written: compact, atmospheric, elegant. It offers a brilliant and engaging study in the paradoxes of the scientific imagination' Richard Holmes--This text refers to the Paperback edition. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
From meagre beginnings Newton carved an expansive niche in European scholarship. His skills, noted early, brought him a Cambridge appointment at 27. Already showing great promise, he was a reluctant publisher. He sequestered himself in his rooms, later in a small cottage. He'd lived almost alone during his childhood, but his curiosity led him in many directions. The prism experiments, breaking sunlight with a prism, began his long career in what is now deemed "physics". Light's properties were the subject of great dispute, with Newton holding to emitted particles. Waves seemed to adhere to the Cartesian "vortices" which Newton found suspect. Playing with mirrors and lenses led to the reflecting telescope widely used today. Thinking about the heavenly bodies he observed led, of course, to his idea of gravitational attraction. Not a popular idea then, since such forces were disdained.
It's difficult to assess whether his delving into the facts of nature led to his personal isolation, or the reverse holds.Read more ›
My only cricism of the work would be the extensive section of notes - all necessary I agree but many, other than simple references, could have been included in the main body of the text. I found it quite irritating at times having to flick back and forth and this spoilt the continuity somewhat.
This biography of Newton takes us from his birth as a son of an illiterate farm worker through to his death bed, when he said that if he had seen further than other men, it was only by standing on the shoulders of giants. This book not only summarises his life and his scientific achievements but also makes the distinction that he was not only the first of the followers of the new scientific method but also the last of the old, an alchemist, a wizard and a magician.
Gleick's telling of Newton's life is so well written that even if I did not have a passion for the subject it would have evoked one. Newton's discoveries and thoughts have had such an impact upon the world - he invented calculus, discovered gravity and even one of the first to divide light into the seven colours of the rainbow. Yet Newton was a lonely man, shunning friendships, fighting bitterly with the great men of his age and standing on the brink of madness. He was both a scientist and deeply religious. A great but a strange man. This book is the perfect, well written summary to a great life, however for more detail you may have to look else where, for the casual reader however this book is perfection.
Often in his field of work Newton was innovative and his theories were apt to be seminal. Calculus, light, motion, gravity, etc. all confirm his celebrated and deserved status. Additionally, although Gleick's book shows Newton to be idiosyncratic, particular of thought and almost toxically reclusive, Newton is also shown to be sufficiently self-aware to be able to accept and expound the notion that mankind was probably on the verge of exponential cerebral expansion. How right he was.
Further, the author reveals Newton as the spiritually-aware scientist, who eventually himself came to believe, that he was merely bringing to light (pun intended) The Creator's own technical and mathematical system by which the whole stable edifice of the known universe was built; and upon the health and well-being of which the world's very continuation would depend.
As a writer, Gleick excels himself in demonstrating Sir Isaac's paradoxically insular behaviour to peers and contemporaries whilst masking such a brilliantly extrovert mind containing such an unrivalled capacity for almost unbridled reason and accurate prognosis. The modern sub-atomic and algorithmically-charged machine-learning world today owes Newton so very much for pointing the way forward, but I believe readers have a debt also to Gleick for conjuring in homage Newton the man in an obviously admiring but readable style.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I hardly ever write reviews of anything, but I want to help people avoid wasting money on this. The book is (mercifully) short, gave me no insight into Newton. Read morePublished 10 days ago by JK
A explosive account of arguably the greatest geniuses in the history of Great Britain. The biography is very well structured, with detailed sometimes moving accounts of Newton's... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Lee09
If you are looking for a highly poetic, dramatized, self-indulgent biography of Newton, this is the one. Read morePublished 2 months ago by David Smith
Gleick has written an entertaining, lively "Life", but when compared with Westfall's "The Life of Isaac Newton" it lacks useful detail.Published 15 months ago by CCE
My husband was pleased with this as a gift from his wish list. He likes physics and he liked this book.Published 20 months ago by Sandra Whitworth