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Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer Audio, Cassette – Audiobook, Unabridged


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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.; Unabridged edition (April 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0736644873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0736644877
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.8 x 2.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,397,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael White was a science lecturer and director of studies at d’Overbroeck’s College, Oxford for ten years before becoming a full-time writer and journalist. He is the co-author (with John Gribben) of the best seller, Stephen Hawking: A Life In Science which has been translated into 25 languages and has sold in excess of 250,000 copies worldwide. He is a regular contributor to The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, GQ, Focus and New Scientist, writing on subjects ranging from pure science to music. He lives in London.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Atheen M. Wilson on April 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
I had been a little disappointed in White's biography of da Vinci, Leonardo: The First Scientist (for which see my review), because I felt he had overstepped the boundaries of the available data and wandered vastly into the realm of speculation. When his book Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer came to my attention I was dubious, but I needn't have been. This volume seems very well researched, and what speculation the author offers is not beyond that which arises naturally from his material. In fact, it is not much beyond that which other authors have also raised.
Although I have never read a book entirely dedicated to the physicist, I have often run across biographical information on the man in my other reading on the topic of physics. My first introduction to Newton as a person was in an early book by Carl Sagan. The latter seemed inclined to view Newton as a petty, introverted man who came up with a brilliant contribution to science but who was otherwise enmeshed in the totally unscientific pursuit of alchemy, an endeavor that ultimately poisoned him after first driving him mad. It must be admitted, however, that Sagan's primary purpose had not been a biography of Newton. White definitely gives the subject a better and fairer hearing. In The Last Sorcerer, he makes it obvious that Newton's dabbling in the occult sciences, while less productive of useful information itself, helped structure his way of thinking about other problems which did. Furthermore, he gives credit to the man's thorough knowledge of metals, solvents, furnaces and techniques involved in alchemy, in short of incipient chemistry, as a contributing factor to his later successes in science and other endeavors.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By mwreview on February 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer is a well-written, well-researched, and insightful account of the life of one of the (maybe THE) most influential and important scientists and mathematicians in history. Michael White, as implied by the title of his work, has an ambitious thesis to his study: that alchemy was key to Newton's ground-breaking discoveries. According to White, without his controversial pursuit of alchemical goals like the Philosopher's Stone, Newton would not have established his theory on gravity, etc. While the idea is intriguing and probably true (one's interests and studies in specific areas will often influence what one discovers and how one understands other areas), White provides very little evidence to support his thesis and relies mostly on speculation and guessing.

As a biography, I found this book intellectually stimulating, yet very readable with many interesting details that help the reader understand Newton as a scientist and as a person. Although the author claims at the beginning to concentrate on Newton's alchemical research, the book is a thorough biographical account that covers his troubled youth, his autodidactic study at Cambridge, his most important findings (theory on light and colors, gravity, calculus), his religious views and study in prophesy, his work at the Mint (he was instrumental in England's recoinage), his Presidency in the Royal Society, and his relationships with fellow intellectuals including feuds with Robert Hooke, John Flamsteed, and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. White also devotes what I believe to be too many pages on Newton's niece and her affair/marriage with Lord Halifax.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Chad Davies on December 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
In his biography of Newton, White takes issue with the mythology built up by numerous previous biographers of Newton's highly rationalistic approach to science and mathematics. Instead, he presents Newton as a mystic and compulsive figure at odds with much of the thinking of what will become the scientific revolution.
While White's investigations of Newton's intensive work in alchemy is very interesting and somewhat insightful as to understanding some of the places from which Newton may have drawn inspiration; many of his other assertations are not as bold as he presents or may be somewhat inaccurate. An example of this is Newton's strongly Arian views regarding religion. While certainly at odds with the theological dispositions of Cambridge, Newton's views were shared by a number of other historical figures of the time including John Locke. White fails to place Newton's theological thinking within a broader context of thought in Europe and in Britain at the time and, hence, sensationalizes the issue.
Nowhere is this more obvious and evident than in White's treatment of Newton's relationship with a young French mathematician. Without a great deal of substantiation and in spite of Newton's other relationships White supposes this relationship to be a product of Newton's homosexual tendancies rather than an obsessive-compulsive personality. Again, it seems that the book is written more in a style of the British tabloids than in responsible biography.
What does make this biography worth reading is its attempt to examine the psychological makeup of Newton and what factors might have influenced that makeup.
A serious student of Newton's life will find this biography an interesting read but should temper it by also investigating the recent biography by James Gleick.
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