Top positive review
A biographically human Sir Isaac missing no important aspect of the great man's life. Very very readable
on 18 May 2016
James Gleick has offered his readership a scientifically sanitised but predominantly human biography of Sir Isaac Newton. Even when a reader actually works within the world of physical sciences, mathematics or analysis (as I do myself), I believe that sometimes we all wish to understand more about the private life of great, infamous or notable doers and thinkers.
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.
If you are interested, then please see my reviews on 'Newton's Gift' (Berlinski) - offering some maths and science; 'Isaac Newton The Last Sorcerer,' (White) - offering biography and alchemical adventures; and also 'Newton and the Counterfeiter' (Levenson) - offering the lesser-known Newton as 'Royal Mint 'production director' and 'counter-counterfeiting sleuth and thief-taker.'
Enjoy your Newtonian reading.