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Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton [Kindle Edition]

Richard S. Westfall
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This richly detailed 1981 biography captures both the personal life and the scientific career of Isaac Newton, presenting a fully rounded picture of Newton the man, the scientist, the philosopher, the theologian, and the public figure. Professor Westfall treats all aspects of Newton's career, but his account centres on a full description of Newton's achievements in science. Thus the core of the work describes the development of the calculus, the experimentation that altered the direction of the science of optics, and especially the investigations in celestial dynamics that led to the law of universal gravitation.

Editorial Reviews


"The hallmarks are impeccable detail and clarity...The copious footnotes, for example, generally refer to original manuscripts, letters and memoranda that are out of reach of most students and scholars. The superb quality of this book promises to give it a prominent place in the modern scholarly literature about Isaac Newton." David L. Heiserman, Science Books & Films

"Although there have been other biographies of Newton in the past, this is the first one to be based on an extensive use of the manuscript sources. It is more than merely the biography of a man and an account of the development of his ideas. It is a fundamental resource work on the Scientific Revolution, a work that should be on the shelves of every scholar interested in the main currents of ideas of the seventeenth century or any aspects of the early history of modern science." American Historical Review

"...this biography is to be applauded and recommended...we must all read Westfall's biography and admire it..." Eighteenth-Century Studies

"...fills a decided gap in modern history of science and stands in the very first rank of our advancing understanding of one of the world's greatest geniuses...we must all owe an incalculable scholarly debt to this outstanding book. Westfall's confrontation with Newton's manuscripts, an act of historical integrity that involved sustained and arduous labour for many years, opens up dimensions of Newton's restless genius which we had never before suspected." Ambix

"This must be one of the best biographies ever penned." Spaceflight

"Here at last is a Newton in whom we can believe...In short, this is as complete a biography as modern scholarship can provide." The Observatory

"No private library of an educated person should be without it on the shelf." Industrial Mathematics

Book Description

Destined to become the standard biography of Isaac Newton, this meticulously detailed work is focused on his scientific career, but also deals with every facet of his life. It presents an encompassing picture of Newton--the man, scientist, philosopher, theologian and public figure.

Product Details

  • File Size: 14713 KB
  • Print Length: 969 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (January 31, 1981)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E3URI8U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,125 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb March 17, 2006
A first rate biography should include a good description of the important achievements of the subject, give a good sense of the subject's personality, provide the appropriate historic context in which to view the subject, be well written, and have good documentation. Westfall's biography of Newton is first-rate in all these dimensions. Newton is arguably the most important person in modern history. His work inaugurates both modern mathematics and modern physics. His achievements as a physicist set the pattern not only for physics but also for the other natural sciences. Newton's impact in larger culture extended also beyond the world of sciences. The historian of religion George Marsden wrote that Newton was the most important individual in the founding of the 18th century Enlightenment. Though Newton cannot be considered a member of that movement, his example of demonstrating universal natural laws understandable by human reason was immensely influential in European intellectual culture.

Westfall provides a detailed chronological account of Newton's life that covers all his major (and minor) achievements and is simply excellent at integrating the relevant historical background information. As Westfall writes, we regard Newton as a scientist and the emphasis in on Newton's career as a working scientist and mathematician. But, this is described very clearly within the context of late 17th century Europe. Westfall, for example, devotes ample pages to Newton's study of alchemy and theology. Since Newton spent a large fraction of his life working in these areas, it would be imposing an anachronistic perspective to minimize attention to these topics. Westfall is excellent at describing both the intellectual and social milieu in which Newton functioned.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A comprehensive yet clearly written biography spanning every facet of the life of one of the worlds true geniuses. Compelling from beginning to end this book combines extensive research with a passion to provide an insight into both the work and personal life of Newton. Whilst other work may need to be consulted by the most mathematically minded, readers with a yearning for an insight into Newton's discoveries will generally be pleased at the detail provided. My only critism would be that this very large tome came to an end. Purchasers should be aware that at over 900 pages the paperback version of this book will require careful treatment if it is to survive.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pebbles on a shore October 19, 2002
There are a fair number of Newton biographies, this one is the most comprehensive and thorough, with a full treatment of the development of Newton's scientific and mathematical thought. What is remarkable is how rapidly Newton mastered the essentials of the techniques of his contemporaries, quietly reaching the forefront of knowledge, this in a few years, and without much prior training before his arrival in the world of Cambridge, where he flowered at once despite the almost defunct educational status of this university. The myth, however, of the annus mirabilis needs replacement with the reality of the anni mirabili, next to the near abandonment of mathematics for some years as Newton's concerns passed to encompass something broader than pure physics and his deskdrawer 'calculus' still embedded in geometrical formalisms. The final composition of the Principia in the wake of the coaxing forth of De Motu is grounds for thunderous applause for Halley who had the presence of mind to grasp who he was dealing with and the politic manner needed to communicate/negotiate with the reclusive prime mover of theory. His great work complete Newton is off to rescue the coinage at the Royal Mint,thence to the forgettable episodes of the priority quarrel with Leibniz. This work is slow but superb on all aspects of Newton's life.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent book about a great life April 23, 2004
By A Customer
This is a remarkable biography because it so thoroughly tells the story of Sir Isaac Newton in all its various aspects. Newton's determination to know, his science (breathtaking science, his awesome brilliance), the religious and alchemical investigations, the cranky aloofness, are all carefully and fully drawn; by the end of the book, you feel, along with the author, that you have got to know the subject (at least to the extent one might get to know the great man).
This is a great biography, because it is so detailed, so in depth and so successful at bringing Newton in view. It is also likely that it will for many years surpass any other biography of Newton because of its thoroughness.
I think it is worth reading not only because the reader learns so much about the science and life of one of history's great thinkers, and to some extent how he thought, but also because the reader gains an appreciation of the hard work of invention even for one so gifted as Newton, and some insight into the hard work of turning observations into theoretical constructs.
A magnificent biography.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unquestionably a masterpiece! March 5, 2001
This is in the same class as Ray Monk's Wittgenstein biography or Martin Gilbert's Churchill.
I couldn't put it down until I was at the back page, many dozens of hours after I began!
It left me exhausted but enriched!
This sets a standard by which the modern science biography should be judged.
Westfall says something to the effect that the more you know about a person, the closer you get to them, but in Newton's case, the more we learn, the more mysterious he becomes.
You won't be disappointed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Having finally finished this weighty biography I am pleased to say it...
Having finally finished this weighty biography I am pleased to say it is one of the most insightful biographies I've read in a long time. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jonathon York
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by Louis Beshara
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting book! Shipped out as quickly as they said.
Published 9 months ago by REC
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important man in the history of science
Read this for not only insight into one of our most important minds, but for historical perspective and knowledge about our world.
Published 11 months ago by Booklover49
5.0 out of 5 stars Life and work of Newton
Excellent work. This book digs deeply the life and work of Isaac Newton, not shirking the notes mathematicians.
I recommend;
Published 22 months ago by Cliente Amazon
5.0 out of 5 stars *** Illuminating biography ***
A comprehensive and very well written compilation of sir Isaac Newton's life and works. A fascinating trip to Newton's age and the related discoveries that prepared his outstanding... Read more
Published on January 23, 2013 by Rodolfo Petronio
4.0 out of 5 stars not truly a definitive biography
I bought this book to find the details and straighten out the mysteries of Newton's anomalous persona, which you hear repeatedly in any historical account of physics; Newton... Read more
Published on May 15, 2012 by Kenneth Florek
5.0 out of 5 stars A Review of Isaac Newton's Life
Thoroughly researched. Perhaps a little heavy with footnotes that might have been incorporated into the text. Read more
Published on August 13, 2009 by Mary V. O'Connor
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the mathematically challenged
After looking at various biographies of Isaac Newton I finally decided to purchase this one as it was thought to be the most thorough. And it is thorough indeed. Read more
Published on January 21, 2009 by Joseph Devon
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