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Isaac Newton


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About the Author

James Gleick was born in New York in 1954. He worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times. He is the bestselling author of Chaos, Genius, Faster, and What Just Happened.


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. Agent, Michael Carlisle. (May 16) Forecast: Despite the book's flaws, its brevity and Gleick's reputation may make this the perfect intro to Newton for readers new to him or to science. It could generate good sales. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

'The book has the magic of a wonderful laboratory experiment...A masterpiece of clarity -- so difficult to write, so easy to read.' Michael Holroyd'A fresh and brilliant portrait of his personality and life, the people who mattered to him, the influences which played on him, and the contexts of his achievements.' Oliver Sacks'After reading Jim Gleick's beautifully written and intimate portrait of Newton, I felt as is I'd spent an evening by the fire with that complex and troubled genius.' Alan Lightman'It's beautifully paced and very stylishly written: compact, atmospheric, elegant. It offers a brilliant and engaging study in the paradoxes of the scientific imagination' Richard Holmes

Thousands of school children know the story of Sir Isaac Newton: he watched an apple fall from a tree and discovered physics. Slightly older students might add that he is the father of modern mathematics. Over the years, many biographies have been written about the life and work of this important scientific figure. This book takes an interesting approach, quoting extensively from Newton's own writings. Alas, while "his own words" can be fascinating, too often they are merely confusing to the modern listener, especially the scientific discussions. A few well-placed subject summaries would have eliminated this problem. Gleick also seems to be obsessed with what he sees as the exceptional, tortured loneliness of the scientist's life. Aren't geniuses frequently eccentric and oftentimes lonely? In contrast, the descriptions of Newton's logical but heretical theological beliefs and highly secret alchemical studies are fascinating. Allan Corduner's charming voice and highly professional performance add to the listening experience. Quick and interesting despite the torturous scientific explanations, this program is recommended for large public and university libraries.-I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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