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Isaac Newton

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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  4,658 Ratings  ·  282 Reviews
Isaac Newton was born in a stone farmhouse in 1642, fatherless and unwanted by his mother. When he died in London in 1727 he was so renowned he was given a state funeral—an unheard-of honor for a subject whose achievements were in the realm of the intellect. During the years he was an irascible presence at Trinity College, Cambridge, Newton imagined properties of nature an ...more
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Published May 6th 2003 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2003)
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Riku Sayuj
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: r-r-rs
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
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Jonathan Ashleigh
After fifty pages, I almost put this book down. At that point it was mostly calculations that I was hardly interested in and there was little about how Newton actually lived his life. I’m glad that I did keep reading because I found myself enjoying much of the later parts. He was celibate and he possibly never saw the ocean, yet he could understand the universe like no one before him. Newton was a genius and, because of him, it is hard to imagine how humans thought before him.
Jason Koivu
Dec 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
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
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Simon Clark
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Though Newton is no physicist, his book is very interesting...'

This quote from Newton's contemporary Nicolas Malebranche sums up much of Gleick's excellent biography. Newton is to us a towering figure, arguably the single greatest scientist who ever lived - in fact he was so influential that science as we know it owes an incalculable debt to his vision. He didn't so much invent the modern way of looking at the world as he tore down the existing worldview, categorically proved it to be lacking,
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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 th
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Ben Siems
Dec 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
John Behle
This is a fair, standard recap of Issac Newton's life. Gleick gives each discovered scientific principle its due. Newton's long career is documented well. He was Master of The Royal Mint for 30 years. Also on his extensive resume is President of The Royal Society. Newton wrote endlessly--most of his writings survive, even his first childhood notebook, with drawings. He bought it with his own money. His father died before Newton was born. His mother left the three year old Issac to her mother so ...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
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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
Andy
Nov 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, science, math
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
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Bradley
Feb 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Feisty Harriet
Prior to reading this book the only things I knew (or thought I knew) about Newton was that he "discovered gravity" when an apple hit him in the head, and that he was knighted by the British Empire, and that he probably figured out a lot of other math and science things. So, two of the three are right. Gravity wasn't "discovered" by anyone, it was just defined, and Newton himself refuted the apple story in his lifetime. So much for science according to Saturday morning cartoons. I also didn't re ...more
Colin
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Newton is such a foundational figure for physicists that it’s difficult to imagine him as an actual human being. The paucity of biographical documents and his own reclusiveness and penchant for secrecy exacerbate this problem. Then there’s the centuries-long poetic redefinition of who he was and what he meant to human knowledge that further obscures things; the story of the apple (which isn’t true) illustrates how the real man is now all but obliterated by the myth.

Gleick, as usual, does an exce
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Josh Friedlander
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-writing
Blake Newton

At the end of this short, competent, thought not overly analytical biography, James Gleick teases out the great irony of William Blake's portrayal of Newton as a cold, godless rationalist. Newton was anything but: a crank and a religious esotericist, he spent much of his life studying alchemy and biblical conspiracy theories, and the reason that he refused to take religious vows as part of his role as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge was not that he thought science and theology oug
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Jason Furman
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
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Trevor
Dec 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, biography
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
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benebean
too technical-- if I wanted to know about more of the scientific specifics of how he formed his theories and the details of what they implied I'd read a a technical book not a bio. It seems this book is a summary of Newton's scientific work with a little bio instead of the other way around. It also doesn't help that I'm listening to this as an audiobook.
David
Jul 05, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Gleick can write well. So how did this book turn out to be such a dim bulb?
Abbas
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Standing on the shoulders of giants.

This book has brought to light many of Newton's personality characteristics. Not many details were mentioned on Newton's life and interactions, which is to be expected from a person living in the 17th century. This has made this biography relatively short. However, it is entertaining and pleasing.
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
Francesca
Newton is great, this biography not so much
William
Dec 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Greg
Mar 16, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this on audiobook, and no amount of appealing British accent on the recording could hide the fact that this is an unconscionable abbreviation of the life of Isaac Newton. It's a high-flying overview of the things that Newton was interested in and a shallow, superficial pass over his personal life and tendencies. How could the author have done this little with so much subject matter to work with?

The issue is called into sharp relief when I'm reading Janet Browne's biography of Char
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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
Ken
Apr 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Troy Mattila
Before saying anything I must admit I knew very little about Newton before reading this book, but I don't feel like I know much more after. There is certainly plenty of information in the book, but the timeline is not very fluid and often Gleick veers of topic to talk about the events surrounding Newton that seem to have no relevance to Newton. The Information is the only other Gleick book I have read, and this was written before it. In it you can tell that Gleick takes an interest in the advanc ...more
Joseph
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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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
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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
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“Nullius in verba was the Royal Society’s motto. Don’t take anyone’s word for it.” 4 likes
“He is omnipresent not only virtually but also substantially.… In him all things are contained and move, but he does not act on them nor they on him.… He is always and everywhere.… He is all eye, all ear, all brain, all arm, all force of sensing, of understanding, and of acting.5” 2 likes
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