newton

Author: James Gleick

Rating: 7/10

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Isaac Newton is perhaps the greatest Physicist and one of the best Mathematicians in the history of mankind.

It is therefore no small task to write a biography about this man. I was curious about this book, having previously read a biography of Richard Feynman by the same author which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is actually interesting to compare these two biographies. While Feynman's is rich in personal episodes, detailed and warm, Newtons's biography comes across as colder and perhaps less "human". In part this is due to the fact that Newton lived centuries ago, so it is considerably harder to collect anecdotes and material about the man and his life. Interviews are of course out of the question. However, these two characters are profoundly different in character if not in Genius. Newton didn't make many friends and lived a life of celibacy. Feynman had many friends and much romance in his life.

The challenges of portraying a distant past notwithstanding, the author does a great job of guiding the reader through the most relevant episodes in Newton's life. There's also some good discussions about the mathematical and physical theories he developed, though one feels these could have explored these in more detail. There are also many surprising facts about Newton that are revealed in these pages and that most readers probably never heard of. His forays into theology and alchemy come to mind.

This is a very interesting book and one I certainly recommend. For those of you that prefer the audio format, the narrator in the Audible.com version is excellent, and adds much to the intensity and enjoyment of the story.

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