Isaac Newton
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Isaac Newton

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3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,716 ratings  ·  162 reviews
As a schoolbook figure, Isaac Newton is most often pictured sitting under an apple tree, about to discover the secrets of gravity. In this short biography, James Gleick reveals the life of a man whose contributions to science and math included far more than the laws of motion for which he is generally famous. Gleick's always-accessible style is hampered somewhat by the nee...more
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Published May 6th 2003 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2003)
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Riku Sayuj
I read this to compliment my reading of Quiet by Susan Cain, thinking that studying the life of one of the most famous introverts will give me greater insight.

But all James Gleick provides is a cursory summary of Newton's work and hardly touches on his personal life and not at all on his character or personality. The book is also a history of the enlightenment age, the growth of the Royal Society, of the rivalries that drove its growth, and the role they played in transmission of information.

How...more
Jason Koivu
Isaac Newton was a wizard?!* I love that there was a time, only just a few hundred years ago, in which men attempted wizardy-like experiments, working magic if you will, in their attempts to turn lead into gold and what have you. That's awesome.

As a nice "getting to know you" leaping off point, Gleick's book is a good starter bio about Newton's life in general. It gives summary details of his theories and work without bogging the reader down too much. Anyone looking to do a study on Newton will...more
Ben Siems
Dec 26, 2007 Ben Siems rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in this intriguing and important historical figure
This is a very compelling look at the life of an extraordinarily brilliant and complex man who profoundly influenced the course of modern history. Living as we do in an era when science and religion tend to be seen as fundamentally contradictory, it is fascinating to read of the curious young theologian who truly believed God's greatest wish was for humanity to discover the mechanisms that drive the movements of the universe—to, as Newton described it, transcend the finite boundaries of our bein...more
Nicholas
Perhaps I'm predisposed, keeping figures like Einstein and Feynman in mind, to the idea that great minds are inherently liberal. Not in politics necessarily, but in personality. It's hard to imagine someone of the intellectual stature of the inventor of the calculus and modern mechanics not being magnanimous, generous, giving and wanting to share his success with the world; being encouraging to fellows pursuing difficult questions and charitable in his political stances toward the accumulation a...more
Bradley
Very fine introduction (or refresher) on the life of Isaac Newton. As a boy, my conception of Newton was of a man heroically revealing Truth to an awestruck world. This, of course, was a myth, made up in the years after Newton's death. The real Newton was far more interesting. Though perhaps we moderns obssess, without justice, over the darker aspects of his life, they are fascinating. The best parts of Gleick's treatment revolved around the gravity of Newton's alchemical pursuits: his feverish...more
Brett
After reading Quicksilver, the first book in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, I became very interested to learn more about some the historical figures around whom the story revolved – Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, John Wilkens, Christopher Wren, …, and Isaac Newton, the founders and early members of the Royal Society. Given my interest in physics, optics, and math, especially Isaac Newton.

Fortunately for me, James Gleick’s biography of Newton, simply titled Isaac Newton , was published earlier tha...more
Euisry Noor
Woww... Ternyata... Isaac Newton itu begitu yaa... Seringkali lintasan-lintasan komen kecil macam itu terbetik ketika membaca buku ini. Tidak menyesal jadi membeli buku ini (pada awalnya sempat ragu karena tak yakin ini buku bakal mengulas sosok Newton di sebelah mananya, dan tak punya referensi apa pun, hanya melihat buku ini di suatu stand pameran buku). Di lihat dari judulnya, "Misteri Apel Newton", terjemahan dari buku berjudul asli "Isaac Newton" karya James Gleick ini memang membuat buku i...more
Andy
A nondescript biography of Isaac Newton that nearly exemplifies what I'd consider to be an average book. There's no particular focus on one aspect of his life or another; it's a fairly straightforward treatment, almost like a long Wikipedia article, with many tidbits brought up here and there but no particular facet explored too deeply.

This is not in and of itself a problem but I think that if a writer wants to take this approach, he has to do a really good job of grabbing the reader by the col...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
I was enjoying this book, but it slowly bored me to death. Newton's work is (to put it very very mildly) really interesting and terribly significant. And there's lots of it. But writing about it without ever writing an equation makes it tedious to read. I just got bored.

And he had an interesting life too - rags to riches fairytale stuff. But we know so little about most of it and Gleick's made it so heavy with notes-at-the-back that I care less now than I did when I started the book.

Not enough d...more
Peter
Information was not communicated well (midway through what I consider a normally attentive reading I was unable to answer questions about what his stepfather did and whether he had siblings). It wasn't clear what were his major accomplishments - nowhere does it say "first optics, then calculus, now gravity" (are those them? Did I get them in the right order?) The book reads too much like a journal, "in the shit" the whole time with little attention to the past and future. I feel like the author...more
Ken
Isaac Newton was born January 4, in 1643. He was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and natural philosopher. He was also an alchemist and theologian.

Newton is considered by many scholars and members of the general public to be one of the most influential people in human history.

His Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin for "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy" and usually called the Principia), published in 1687, is probably the most important scientific book...more
William
With Isaac Newton, James Gleick once again reasserts his credentials as a scientific historian and writer of the first rank, as well as winning the National Book Award, and as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. But rather than concentrate on the likes of the father of Quantum Electrodynamics, the late Richard Feynman, or the originator of fractal geometry, Benoît Mandelbrot, Gleick's focus in this book is on Sir Isaac Newton, whose works on optics, and the creation of differential and integral c...more
Jason
A first rate biography of Isaac Newton. The biography is a relatively short, standard cradle-to-grave account, with significant discussions of Newton's scientific thinking and discoveries, starting with mathematics, then optics, and finally physics -- not counting alchemy, biblical studies, and his role as master of the mint.

James Gleick puts you directly into Newton's life and world through extensive quotations from letters and other documents, all with the original spellings. In some cases, li...more
Ash
Sir Isaac Newton is regarded as a genius. I recently got hold of his biography written by James Gleick, who has also authored Genius and Chaos. I always wanted to know more about Newton’s life. Having known Einstein’s biography, I was curious to know how Newton’s life was. “Newton was not a pleasant man“, is a statement about him that always comes to my mind, after having read Stephen Hawking’s review about Isaac Newton. He had too many adversaries and never had any friends. He was very lonely i...more
Upom
It's really astonishing what Isaac Newton did for the world. He applied mathematics to the problems of nature, and through it, created an order that defined physics without modification for 300 years, and is invaluable to this day. Furthermore, he was the son of a poor farmer, defining the tides, despite probably never actually seeing the ocean. Writing about the life of such a man is no easy undertaking. And yet Gleick does such a fantastic job of outlining the times, events, and accomplishment...more
Steven Dzwonczyk
This book taught me that Isaac Newton was not a one trick pony as many tend to describe him. He was influential in many realms including physics, philosophy, and the monetary system of England, for which he was knighted. While he essentially invented the modern formula for scientific thought, reasoning, and experimentation, he was a human who was subject to petty competition with colleagues and a propensity to cling to beliefs that were not supported by his observations.

A contemporary of Edmund...more
Joseph
For such an interesting figure, I knew remarkably little about Isaac Newton, which is what led me to this book in the first place. In truth, I'm not sure how much there is to know; I assume his personal life is better documented than some of his contemporaries (I'm thinking predominantly of Shakespeare), but by how much, frankly, I'm still unsure.

Gleick, to be fair, doesn't seem particularly interested in details outside of what Newton accomplished, but he still manages to impart a sense of Newt...more
Noiresque
I listened to this book on CD over the last week.

I found the reader's crisp, Jeremy Irons-like British accent to be helpful sometimes, but distracting an equal amount of the time.

For a James Gleick book, I found this to be lacking in the insightful science that I'm used to from him.

That being said, this was a good biography. Engaging, interesting, and at times, entertaining. This book does give you a true sense of the absolutely fundamental nature of Newton's discoveries to our current world. It...more
Andy
A far more thorough account of the life of Newton than I had seen previously, this book certainly accomplished the task sought after by all authors of nonfiction - that of inspiring greater curiosity in the reader. After finishing, I feel like I've only scratched the surface of all there is to know about the complicated world of philosophy, politics, and science which existed during Newton's life.

This biography details the work of Newton and places it all within the context of his connection to...more
Fabian
Isaac Newton was the culmination of all mathematics and physics that had come before his time and had remained separate. He is to date the most influential scientist of all time. He invented one half of the Calculus. He was at the same time fervently religious, and a heretic denying the holy trinity. He was obsessed with alchemy, to the extent of creating for himself a tonic/elixir to drink daily to prevent illness, which contained as an ingredient quicksilver (mercury). He was the first to docu...more
David
Oct 17, 2010 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the Sciences
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karl Tenney
The story of this man's life is flat-out amazing. Newton is one of those who qualifies to be on the very short list of the Smart People In History. This book gives one appreciation of Newton's intuitive brilliance. He described gravity, INVENTED calculus, figured out the inverse square law, understood and set out the rules for motion and on and on.

There is also interesting stuff about his personal life. Disappointments, demons, dreams, etc.

Some of this story was difficult to understand. I have...more
Alex
This is one of those "torn between three stars and four" books. I did get a good sense of who Newton was. He was an asshole.

Gleick gets pretty technical. A lot of this book describes Newton's theories, including calculus, in no small amount of detail. I've been frustrated in the past by biographies that didn't go into enough technical detail about the discoveries of various scientists, so this may be a "Careful what you wish for" situation; I've always been shit at calculus, and much of this bo...more
Todd Martin
Though a bit slow out of the gate, James Gleick's Isaac Newton soon hit its stride as it describes Newton's discoveries in mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy. Gleick chooses to focus on Newton's scientific accomplishments, but also includes details from his personal life that mark him as a bit of an odd duck. Newton was reclusive and secretive and his personal interactions, though they occurred infrequently, were marked by brinksmanship and confrontation. One is left with the impression...more
Kenneth Bennett
This book added so much depth and texture to the picture I had in my mind of the guy who "discovered" gravity. This is a well-told story about a genius who was somehow able to imagine new sciences just by sitting and thinking. Newton possessed an intellect on a par with Einstein and came up with names for properties we all learn about in high school (and take for granted): mass, gravity, velocity. Gleick paints a detailed picture of an extraordinary man, drills down on the science but does so wi...more
Trevor
Newton was a very odd man. He once said that his greatest achievement was his lifetime of celibacy. An achievement indeed, but perhaps his optics and laws of motion have had a more lasting impact on the world.

Newton is without doubt one of the greatest geniuses of all time. But he was also more than a little eccentric. The warning, don't try this at home, clearly applies to his sticking things into his eye to see how it worked.

This book gives a very brief, but fascinating insight into the life o...more
S. Chandler
Gleick nestles Newton right into historical context and uncovers Newton the person while dazzling us with Newton, the mind behind the math.

He humbly walked a balance I find so beautiful I could cry:

"it may also be allow'd that God created particles of matter of several sizes and figures, and in several proportions to space and perhaps of different densities and forces, and thereby to vary the laws of nature and make worlds of several sorts in several parts of the universe. At least I see nothin...more
Filip Ligmajer

page 12 | location 177-182 | Added on Monday, 7 April 2014 22:17:51

Newton joined them as one. With the coming of Einstein’s relativity, Newtonian science was often said to have been “overthrown” or “replaced,” but that was not so. It had been buttressed and extended.7 “Fortunate Newton, happy childhood of science!” said Einstein. “Nature to him was an open book. He stands before us strong, certain, and alone.”8 Yet he speaks to us reluctantly and covertly.


page 33 | location 504-508 | Added on...more
Mark Johnson
A very short biography of a very mysterious man. The book focuses on Newton's running feuds with Hooke over the nature of light (Hooke said light was waves; Newton, that it was composed of particles; turns out they were both right). I do not feel I know much more about Newton, the man, than I did before I started reading the book. I was mainly interested in Newton's religious beliefs and the books he wrote in support of his position, and secondarily interested in the notion that Newton may have...more
Steve
Nice intro bio for those of us without a PhD in some field of science. 190 pp bio w/ another 47 pp of Notes and a good Bibliography. Too bad our choices seem to be this, a Freudian bio, or Westfall's nearly 1000 page bio (which is also $$$$).

Places Newton in his time extremely well - a change from an Aristotelian world view to one based on experiment, and the use of math for scientific proof. Also loads on the "politics" of science.

Interesting that the last chapter does not cover Newton's last...more
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James Gleick (born August 1, 1954) is an American author, journalist, and biographer, whose books explore the cultural ramifications of science and technology. Three of these books have been Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalists, and they have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Born in New York City, USA, Gleick attended Harvard College, graduating in 1976 with a degree in...more
More about James Gleick...
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