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The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World Paperback – February 7, 2012
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For this narrative of the seventeenth century’s scientific revolution, Dolnick embeds the mathematical discoveries of Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Leibniz in the prevailing outlook of their time. God was presumed integral to the universe, so discerning how it worked was a quest as theological as it was intellectual. By directing readers to the deistic drive in their famous achievements, Dolnick accents what otherwise strikes moderns as strange, such as Newton’s obsession with alchemy and biblical hermeneutics. Those pursuits held codes to God’s mind, as did motion and, especially, planetary motion, and Dolnick’s substance follows the greats’ progress in code-breaking, depicting Kepler’s mathematical thought process in devising his laws, Galileo’s in breaking out the vectors of falling objects, Newton’s and Leibniz’s in inventing calculus, and Newton’s in formulating his laws of gravitation. Including apt biographical detail, Dolnick humanizes the group, socializes them by means of their connections to such coevals as the members of the nascent Royal Society, and captures their mental coexistence in mysticism and rationality. A concise explainer, Dolnick furnishes a fine survey introduction to a fertile field of scientific biography and history. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Dolnick’s book is lively and the characters are vivid.” (New York Times Book Review)
“A character-rich, historical narrative.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Edward Dolnick’s smoothly written history of the scientific revolution tells the stories of the key players and events that transformed society.” (Charlotte Observer)
“An engrossing read.” (Library Journal)
“A lively account of early science. . . . Colorful, entertainingly written and nicely paced.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“[Dolnick] offers penetrating portraits of the geniuses of the day . . . who offer fertile ground for entertaining writing. [He] has an eye for vivid details in aid of historical recreation, and an affection for his subjects . . . [An] informative read.” (Publishers Weekly)
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This book is a masterpiece, one I will always treasure and reread. I just bought two more copies from Amazon, one for me, and one for my scientist son. Such a staggeringly well told story. I completely love this work.
He cleverly takes you step by step without your even realizing it and then pulls back the last curtain on universal gravity. The steps had been incremental and easily digested so that when he showed the final key it all popped into sharp focus and I realized that he has led me easily and gently to the truth. Wow. I was stunned when I saw the simplicity and logic of the solution and how unaware I was of being led to it.
Dolnick writes well but in this work he seems somewhat disorganized, jumping back and forth between the ancient Greeks and the seventeenth century Europeans without clear reason. He writes in the Acknowledgments of his onetime desire to study theoretical mathematics, and unfortunately he indulges this fascination with some descriptions that do not illuminate enough to justify the detail. But overall I enjoyed this book and learned much more about the real personalities and idiosyncracies of the men who did so much to create the modern world.