loafingcactus's Reviews > The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

The Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick
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's review
May 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: philosophyofscience, sampled-kindle-2011, read-2012, library-audible
Read in June, 2012

This book was likely far more enjoyable as an audible book, driving down the road thinking "now that is interesting!", than it would have been to slog through as a read. Not because it is badly written, but just because it is packed with interesting bits that don't necessarily make for page turning narrative.

The book explains that we reinterpret those at the turning point of the modern world to our modern sensibilities, conveniently ignoring how these individuals were also intellectually tied to the past. It makes them seem more "scientific" than they really were, more detached from the human world than they really were, and perhaps allows a certain glibness about the importance of culture today. REAL scientists we think, don't have culture just science, and therefore if we are to be modern we must eschew culture too. None of this is true.

One of the true items associated with success which is not highlighted by the author but which is unavoidable in the history is simply not giving up. Kepler worked for more than a decade before having major breakthroughs. This is the lesson to never be forgotten. And it perhaps highlights how the present day publish-or-perish academy isn't really structured to support great work.

The conclusion of the book relies on the show-don't-tell that proceeded it, nonetheless I wish it had been less perfunctory. Some more analysis of the big picture would have been nice to hear.

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