Isaac Newton

James Gleick

From one of the best writers on science, a portrait of Isaac Newton – the man who changed our understanding of the universe, of science, and of faith.

‘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. It’s more revealing than a falling apple!’ Richard Holmes

Isaac Newton was the chief architect of the modern world. He answered the ancient philosophical riddles of light and motion; he effectively discovered gravity; he salvaged the terms ‘time’, ‘space’, ‘motion’ and ‘place’ from the haze of everyday language, standardized them and married them, each to the other, constructing an edifice that made knowledge a thing of substance: quantative and exact. Creation, Newton demonstrated, unfolds from simple rules, patterns iterated over unlimited distances.

What Newton learned remains the essence of what we know. Newton’s laws are our laws. When we speak of momentum, of forces and masses, we are seeing the world as Newtonians. When we seek mathematical laws for economic cycles and human behaviour, we stand on Newton’s shoulders. Our very deeming the universe as solvable is his legacy.

This was the achievement of a reclusive professor, recondite theologian and fervent alchemist. A man who feared the light of exposure, shrank from controversy and seldom published his work. In his daily life he emulated the complex secrecy in which he saw the riddles of the universe encoded. His vision of nature was of its time; he never purged occult, hidden, mystical qualities. But he pushed open a door that led to a new universe.

Reviews of Isaac Newton

    • On WHAT JUST HAPPENED:‘This collection of pieces originally published in The New York Times, is very special… Untangling anything from an interview with Microsoft is hard; putting it into context harder; making that readable, and even enjoyable, the work of a master. Gleick does it. It’s a pleasure flying with him’ Charles Arthur, Independent
    • On FASTER:‘It’s an important portrait of an age; a learned, witty, eclectic treatise, and it might even help you to slow down. So don’t hang around – go out and buy it right now.’ Robert Macfarlane, Observer
    • ‘Brilliantly dissects our unceasing daily struggle to squeeze as much as we can into the 1,400 minutes of the day.’ Sunday Times Books of the Year