Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
An Absolutely Addictive Story Of Truth Being Better Than Fiction - This Is A Well-Written Must-Read
on 10 May 2016
Sir Isaac Newton summons immediate thoughts of and a belief in the greatest scientific thinker of 17th Century England. A loner and reclusive man who applied himself to mastering a full understanding of calculus, mathematical interpretation and, in mechanical completeness, those physical laws such as motion, energy, light, optics, etc. which could definitively explain his and our understanding of, essentially, God as Creator of His 'system of the world.' In recent years his less well known but long-term embracing of alchemy, divinity and biblical prophecy, have all been revealed. Two books which cover these essential aspects of Newton's life are the succinctly explanatory 'Newton's Gift' by David Berlinski and the first-rate 'Isaac Newton The Last Sorcerer' by Michael White.
Adding further now to Newton's colossal cerebral achievements, Thomas Levenson, a most wonderful raconteur and storyteller, has written the fluid yet truthful account 'Newton and the Counterfeiter.' It reads as well as all good novels should, yet remains true to the facts - no easy feat - so that we can now be made aware that in The Royal Mint's direst hour - when England's currency had become bastardised, debased and brought so low in worth that the country teetered on the edge of monetary ruin, it was the self same Newton who, as Warden of the Mint, oversaw and implemented a complete overhaul of the production of the coin of the realm, arguably saving England from national fiscal insolvency.
Yet the book does not confine itself to Newton's planning, management and production skills for his country's newly-revitalised currency. Enter William Chaloner, master counterfeiter, and often times a most worthy and cunning opponent for the greatest analytical mind of the age. Even if the story of Chaloner's efforts to swindle the nation, and to produce counterfeit currency on an enormous scale never quite reaches the dizzy heights of Holmes versus Moriarty, the game was clearly afoot and a ripping yarn awaits. Except that that this ripping yarn is true. Newton certainly needed all his resolve, single-mindedness, detective skills and a certain police-like control of a network of informers and 'thief-takers,' who assisted him to defeat all who stood against England's glorious and wealthy future. Chaloner never realised that Newton equated counterfeiting and debasing of the currency with profane crime, almost blasphemy, and a crime that threatened divine law itself. That Newton was on a mission from Parliament was obvious, but the author shows us a side of his character that embraced such a ruthlessness and unforgiving aspect of his nature that it can only properly be explained by accepting that Newton himself believed that he was also engaged in God's work. Newton was not a hater. Put simply, he was a driven man and this book reveals him as such.
The book is superbly researched, historically titillating and splendidly descriptive of the stink and squalor that made its disgusting home alongside the mercantile expansion, foppery and naive riches of London from the mid 17th Century on.
A worthy addition to all we thought we knew about arguably the greatest original thinking scientist of the modern age. An absolutely absorbing and brilliant read.