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The Story of Science: Newton at the Center Hardcover – October 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7 Up–In this second book in the series, Hakim introduces students to the great scientific minds of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and others. Teachers will find anecdotal information to enliven their lessons; browsers will be fascinated by the sidebars and captioned illustrations that enhance the text or show related information. The detailed index makes finding specific individuals, theories, or inventions easy. In an easy, conversational style, the author speaks directly to readers, opening with, Read this book and you'll know more science than Isaac Newton did. Full-color illustrations, reproductions, or other graphics appear on almost every page. A tremendous amount of research went into this volume and reading it will greatly increase students' understanding of the history and discovery of scientific theory and invention. Because of its size and weight, this title will need to be booktalked. Put it into the hands of science students who are eager to read beyond the brief snippets found in less comprehensive books.–Kathy Lehman, Thomas Dale High School Library, Chester, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. In the second volume of a planned six-book series, Hakim surveys the interlocked histories of early modern astronomy, physics, mathematics, and chemistry--from the invention of printing to the discovery of radioactivity at the end of the nineteenth century. This is a lot of territory to cover, and particularly with respect to the explosion of research in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Hakim introduces so many major figures, in such rapid succession, that they aren't always easy to keep straight--despite a number of piquant biographical tidbits. Furthermore, her main narrative is surrounded by such an array of marginal glosses, explanations, examples, and experiments, in various typefaces, that it sometimes seems to intrude on rather than unite the material. Still, her animated discourse lends immediacy to every breakthrough, and this outing, though overstuffed, should be considered essential reading for its elucidation of difficult concepts, unfailingly relevant diagrams and illustrations, and engaging portraits of individuals caught up in a whirl of world-altering insights into what makes the universe tick. An annotated resource list is appended. John Peters
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 950L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588341615
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588341617
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I started my career as an author with a ten-volume U.S. history: A History of US, published by Oxford University Press in 1993, and now in a third updated printing. I had no idea the history would end up in ten books, or that it would be so much fun to write. A History of US has been awarded a bunch of prizes. David McCullough commented, ". . .the idea that history might ever be thought of as a chore has clearly never crossed her mind." In testimony before the Senate Education Committee he called the series "superb." People Magazine described me as "the J.K. Rowling of the history world." (Umm, that would be nice. But the books have sold 5 million copies.)

Mine are narrative history books that attempt to set literary standards. I mean for them to be exciting to read. They're meant for young readers, and their teachers and parents, or for anyone without a deep background in U.S. history. These are books that can be found in bookstores, on Amazon, and in schools. Oxford and Hopkins have done teaching materials for those who want to use the books in academic study.

That series was followed by: Freedom: A History of US (published in 2003), the companion to a 16-part PBS series of the same name that was narrated by Katie Couric, with voices by a host of Hollywood figures, from Tom Hanks to Robin Williams. The videos are available to schools from PBS. And the book spawned a terrific website: (

I then turned to The Story of Science, a three-book series jointly published by Smithsonian Books and the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association). The series focuses on the quest to understand the universe--from ancient Greece to today's expanding universe. The first volume is Aristotle Leads the Way; the second, Newton at the Center; the third book, Einstein Adds A New Dimension, attempts to explain quantum theory and relativity with black holes and space travel too. Writing in the New York Times, Natalie Angier called the books, "richly informative." Alan Alda raved. These books have won prizes too. Science writer Timothy Ferris said he wished he had them when he was a boy. Educators at Johns Hopkins and NSTA have developing coordinated teaching materials for classroom use (available from NSTA or Amazon). Reading guru Lucy Calkins, of Teachers College, Columbia, has called my books the "gold standard" in the field.

I've just published my latest title, Reading Science Stories, which celebrates non-fiction reading through tales of some of history's greatest explorers.

And I'm currently working on two books that put biology into a narrative framework.

Before I began writing books, I was an associate editor, editorial writer, and business writer for The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk's morning paper) and a general reporter and photographer on the staff of The Ledger-Star (Norfolk's afternoon paper. I did a whole lot of freelance writing while raising three kids. And I was an assistant editor of World News, a foreign news service at McGraw-Hill.

Writing and teaching seem to be two faces of the same need to explain things. Which may explain why I've had dual careers--as writer and teacher.

I've taught elementary school (Omaha, NE), high school English (Virginia Beach, VA), special education in a middle school (Syracuse, NY), and English composition and American literature at a community college (Virginia Beach). I initiated and taught a writing course for high school teachers of English through the University of Virginia.

I do a lot of speaking, especially to education groups. For three years I worked with a group of history teachers in Los Angeles under a TAH (Teaching American History) grant. I've spent some of my time in an inner-city school where most of the students speak Spanish at home and reading English doesn't come easily.

As to my schooling: I earned a B.A. from Smith College after high school in Rutland, Vermont. Then I received a M.Ed. and an honorary doctorate from Goucher College. Smith gave me the Smith Medal (2000); the Matrix Foundation, the Edith Workman Award (2003); I've taken graduate courses in journalism and in geography at New York University, child psychology at Johns Hopkins, and courses in American history and science at Brown, Harvard, Cornell, and Cambridge University. My website is: You can also connect with me on Twitter: @joyhakim_joy.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Hyacinth Bucket on March 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although I agree that the sidebars are distracting, the book is a delight--and not at all condescending or arrogant. My homeschool daughter and I tried skipping the sidebars and returning to them after we had finished the text proper. It didn't work because the sidebars give anecdotal information that works best when read with the text proper. I'm guessing Ms. Hakim went through the same thought process before deciding on the layout. I do question that the text is meant for middle school. Although Ms. Hakim does write "to" that age level, the subject matter may be more appropriate for high school and thus benefit from a less familiar (although still conversational) style. I hope that Ms. Hakim will provide workbooks to accompany the books eventually. And, we are all waiting for the world history via Hakim!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Patrick on July 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My daughter is homeschooled, and after reading the entire History of US Series, I knew this science series would be a must. Honestly, I learned so much about US history than I ever learned in all my years of schooling through Ms. Hakim's books. Same with the "Story of Science" Series. Some may find the sidebars distracting, but we kind of made them into a separate lesson and learned a great deal of little-known facts. And it isn't only history or science - the author weaves a little bit of everything into these books in these sidebars. I really can't recommend her books enough. So far, they have been THE favorite resource in our four years of homeschooling!
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Kristi Gilleland TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I LIKE the sidebars and pictures. There is a ton of ART history and beautiful graphic design work in the books. Perhaps it is because my husband, son and I are all artists, but we particularly enjoyed the layout of the books. I felt a fusion of science with art in the presentation.

The history is sound, well presented, and detailed enough in scope to touch on mathmatical concepts supporting the science.

I'd reccomend this book for lovers of science history and for older homeschoolers. It is a bit too serious for younger homeschoolers. To me, this is more a book for a older preteen or teen audience.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Really1234 on November 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love, love, love this book and this series. I'm taking a couple of years off to home school my daughter and I am just floored by how fabulous this book is at every turn. I hold two degrees from MIT and I so wish I had had this class before I went.

I teach a weekly class with 3 other home school kids and they love it. We are using the Johns Hopkins workbooks as well. In my class of 5th through 7th graders, we just finished the Law of Universal Gravitation and they all mastered the difficult concepts very easily. The book uses the history of science to build the concepts up over time. So Newtons work just seemed to flow naturally from Descartes and Galileo. And the historical narrative really makes all the science memorable. The stories really show us the people and their times.

I was a little concerned about using a secular book for a Christian-based home school. But, I have been pleasantly surprised. Joy Hakim doesn't shy away from the religious controversy. I was surprised to learn that John Calvin spoke out against Copernicus, citing Psalms, "He has established the earth so that it shall not be moved." But I was equally surprised to learn that Copernicus, Galileo and Newton were all deeply committed to their faith. Because the book presents these things as historical facts, I think that both religious people and atheists can use this book to explore their beliefs and how they mesh with scientific inquiry.

I wish we could get this entire series into the hands of every kid in this country. Well done, Joy Hakim! Can't wait for the biology text to come out.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Science Goddess on February 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Length: 5:29 Mins
Hi, this is Joanne, a bioengineering instructor at the University of Illinois. I read science books and review them. See more at my youtube site [...]

If my brain is tired from reading all those high level science journals, I take a break and read about science in a fun, lighthearted but still informative way with Joy Hakim's The Story of Science Series. Great for educators and homeschoolers, too! Covers the basics of physical sciences thoroughly but at a middle to high school level. This second book includes some of my favorite scientists--Volta, Maxwell, the Curies...great fun!
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By an Amazon customer on September 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't sing Hakim's praises enough - from her History of US series to the The Story of Science, all three volumes so far. I've been an avid science fan my whole life, but not a hard science major, and I gasped all the way through these books as I learned things I never knew, but thought I'd known, or finally understood things I'd known about but that had puzzled me. Get over the "distracting" sidebars - they didn't bother me at all and they were full of great stuff. I ate these books up and I was only reading them to preview for my homeschooler who hates math and is bored by science, but loves history. Joy Hakim has a wonderful ability to take a huge subject (all of US history, for instance, and the development and progress of scientific thought in this case) and make it manageable, new and a fun read. My daughter is discovering that science and math really are amazing and play a critical, pivotal role in the unfolding of human history.
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