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Isaac Newton [Kindle Edition]

James Gleick
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.90
You Save: $6.05 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Isaac Newton was born in a stone farmhouse in 1642, fatherless and unwanted by his mother. When he died in London in 1727 he was so renowned he was given a state funeral—an unheard-of honor for a subject whose achievements were in the realm of the intellect. During the years he was an irascible presence at Trinity College, Cambridge, Newton imagined properties of nature and gave them names—mass, gravity, velocity—things our science now takes for granted. Inspired by Aristotle, spurred on by Galileo’s discoveries and the philosophy of Descartes, Newton grasped the intangible and dared to take its measure, a leap of the mind unparalleled in his generation.

James Gleick, the author of Chaos and Genius, and one of the most acclaimed science writers of his generation, brings the reader into Newton’s reclusive life and provides startlingly clear explanations of the concepts that changed forever our perception of bodies, rest, and motion—ideas so basic to the twenty-first century, it can truly be said: We are all Newtonians.


From the Trade Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As a schoolbook figure, Isaac Newton is most often pictured sitting under an apple tree, about to discover the secrets of gravity. In this short biography, James Gleick reveals the life of a man whose contributions to science and math included far more than the laws of motion for which he is generally famous. Gleick's always-accessible style is hampered somewhat by the need to describe Newton's esoteric thinking processes. After all, the man invented calculus. But readers who stick with the book will discover the amazing story of a scientist obsessively determined to find out how things worked. Working alone, thinking alone, and experimenting alone, Newton often resorted to strange methods, as when he risked his sight to find out how the eye processed images:

.... Newton, experimental philosopher, slid a bodkin into his eye socket between eyeball and bone. He pressed with the tip until he saw 'severall white darke & coloured circles'.... Almost as recklessly, he stared with one eye at the sun, reflected in a looking glass, for as long as he could bear.

From poor beginnings, Newton rose to prominence and wealth, and Gleick uses contemporary accounts and notebooks to track the genius's arc, much as Newton tracked the paths of comets. Without a single padded sentence or useless fact, Gleick portrays a complicated man whose inspirations required no falling apples. --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

Gleick's most renowned writing falls into one of two categories: vivid character studies or broad syntheses of scientific trends. Here, he fuses the two genres with a biography of the man who was emblematic of a new scientific paradigm, but this short study falls a bit short on both counts. The author aims to "ground this book as wholly as possible in its time; in the texts," and his narrative relies heavily on direct quotations from Newton's papers, extensively documented with more than 60 pages of notes. While his attention to historical detail is impressive, Gleick's narrative aims somewhere between academic and popular history, and his take on Newton feels a bit at arms-length, only matching the vibrancy of his Feynman biography at moments (particularly when describing Newton's disputes with such competitors as Robert Hooke or Leibniz). As might be expected, Gleick's descriptions of Newton's scientific breakthroughs are clear and engaging, and his book is strongest when discussing the shift to a mathematical view of the world that Newton championed. In the end, this is a perfectly serviceable overview of Newton's life and work, and will bring this chapter in the history of science to a broader audience, but it lacks the depth one hopes for from a writer of Gleick's abilities.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2341 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUBG28
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,707 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
191 of 199 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Piece of Work is Isaac Newton May 22, 2003
Format:Hardcover
I'm not a mathematician; I'm not even much good at arithmetic. Once when trying to count backward from 100 by 7's I started with 97, went to 93, and gave up. Of course I was lying in a hospital bed, but even at my best I wouldn't have gotten far. I tell you this because I approached "Isaac Newton," by James Gleick expecting to read the introduction, pick up a few bits-and-bobs, and bail out. What a surprise to find myself reading even while walking to the bus stop. Thank you, Mr. Gleick for a fascinating biography that doesn't bog down in numbers, but still imparts the scientific information salient to Mr. Newton's life.
Isaac Newton was a piece of work. A scientist, but also a student of biblical prophecy; a chemist, but also an alchemist; a public figure as well as something of a recluse; a fountain of learning who refused to publish. Isaac Newton was a man of his times, and Mr. Gleick points out the very interesting paradox that Newton lived in a pre-Newtonian world. Of course he would be filled with contradictions. Even so, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Newton's contemporary and a philosopher/mathematician in his own right who found himself at odds with Newton by independently inventing differential and integral calculus, told the Queen of Prussia that "in mathematics there was all previous history, from the beginning of the world, and then there was Newton; and that Newton's was the better half."
If you would like a better understanding of the laws of nature we take for granted, and an understanding of the life and times of the complicated man who formulated them for us, then I recommend this highly readable (and mathematically understandable) biography.
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78 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Scientific Genius July 9, 2003
Format:Hardcover
First off, let me say that I am a great admirer of Isaac Newton. Einstein is who he is and deserves every accolade put upon him but, in my opinion, humankind has never produced a scientific genius as great as Newton. He understood the world in a way that has never been equaled before or since.
That being said, let me also say that this is a very good biography of Newton. It is brief so it is easily digestible by anyone. Still, what is lacks in depth it makes up for in coverage. We get glimpses of many parts of Newton's life, from his obsessive questioning and scientific investigation of the plague/fire years through his hiding-in-plain-sight years at Trinity through the renown of his London years as President of the Royal Society and Warden of the Mint.
Gleick also does not shy away from the less understandable parts of Newton's nature--his hypersensitivity to criticism, his theological struggles and his relentless alchemical investigations. Though, as this biography makes clear, even his ability to achieve his well-known and -respected triumphs in mathematics and physics really defy understanding. Let's face it, there is something about genius that is beyond any kind of clarity for those of us not touched by it.
Anyone interested in a quick look at an amazing man should read this book. I would also suggest taking the time to follow the many endnotes that Gleick has provided. Unlike many notes of this type, these are very readable and add to the text, though some probably could have been added right to the body of the text without much interruption of the flow. In any case, Gleick has written a fine book about a true genius.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Figure Newton May 23, 2003
Format:Hardcover
I though Galileo's Daughter was the best book I read last year, and this one is a close second. Only James Gleick has the self-confidence and skill to synthesize the life of Newton down to 191 succinct and fascinating pages. The average author, full of himself, would probably write about 1,191 pages and you wouldn't be able to lift the book. This is a masterpiece of time, space, light and color. A reader in motion will tend to remain in motion. It was just great, I read it in one sitting. I hope this starts a trend!
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The World Was Never The Same September 4, 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Few would deny that Sir Issac Newton was a singularly important man in the history of both science and mathematics. His two best-known accomplishments, the invention of the calculus and a theory of gravity which accurately predicted the motions of the planets, have done much to shape the world in which we now live. Despite the incredible advances made by others in the ensuing centuries, the world view of the average educated person is still best described as "Newtonion." I believe we must go as far back as the golden age of the ancient Greeks to find a revolution in world view that is possibly comparable to that created by Newton.
Gleick's short biography is a superb introduction to the man and his times. It is not overly technical and the lay reader should not worry about much going over his/her head. Gleick has done again what he seems to do best: he has taken a difficult subject and made it accessible to a wide audience. He did that in his books about chaos theory and the life of physicist Richard Feynman, and he has done it again with this biography of Isaac Newton.
The author emphasizes Newton's human side, which is bizarre enough to satisfy even the most jaded reader. Newton was not a social man, frequently quarreled with other scientists, was reticent about publicizing his discoveries, and more than dabbled in alchemy. He lived as if possessed by some personal demon who denied him the ordinary comforts and pleasures of life.
I disagree with an earlier review that complained about the brevity of this book. I found it to be just about right, and well-written. There are ample references for those who wish to learn more about Isaac Newton. On the other hand, if you simply feel that you should know the essentials about the life of the man who shaped our modern view of the world, this book should serve that need well.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars bags
not as large as am used to . they are somewhere between med and large they will do
Published 1 month ago by T. Burless
5.0 out of 5 stars Best expose on Newton
Very very detailed and informative biography about Sir Issac Newton. The author, James Gleick, is well known for producing outstanding works about science. Read more
Published 4 months ago by MSE fanatic
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent biography!
Gleick's book brilliantly explains Newton's discoveries and their importance. Not a great deal about the man himself is revealed but little is known about his thoughts and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by C. Schnaubelt
4.0 out of 5 stars Left me wanting more
As a life science instructor, now retired, with a very broad interest in all science I have taught elements of science history as relates to microbiology, anatomy and physiology,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by BeenThere
4.0 out of 5 stars sir Isaac
It was an interesting read. Much of the scientific information was over my head but the way Newton went about his experiments was fascinating. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Tom B
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing summary of Newton's life and achievements
This book provided a very well-written overview of Newton's life. Gleick is a skilled writer, turning one memorable sentence after another. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Larry Payne
5.0 out of 5 stars Sort of a candy treat of a book, but quite good.
I read this in one sitting. It's an easy read, but it was not a waste of time.

I learned a lot about Newton. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Christopher T. Dahle
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
I like this book because what I am it make me more better to my philosophy and I am delighted to me
Published 7 months ago by Martin Frank
5.0 out of 5 stars CLASSIC BOOK
This is a Wonderful - Excellent - book. It is and will remain always
Evergreen. I first read and loved it some 50+ years ago and it is
So Wonderful to have to reprinted... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dr. Norman Frankel
4.0 out of 5 stars A good treatment of Newton's life for a quick review.
I am, if such a term is even appropriate, an ardent fan of Newton. As such I enjoy reading just about anything on the subject. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
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