Sir Isaac Newton is among the giants of the scientific era. It was Newton who conceived the imperial vision of mathematical physics and Newton again who created the first and perhaps the greatest of scientific theories. Physicists searching for the elusive final theory that will conclusively explain matter in all of its manifestations are his heirs. Yet for all that, Newton has remained inaccessible to most modern readers, and even to many scientists, indisputably great but indisputably remote. In this witty, engaging, and often moving examination of Newton's life, David Berlinski recovers the man behind the mathematical breakthroughs. The story carries the reader from Newton's unremarkable childhood to his awkward undergraduate days at Cambridge and then to the astonishing year in which, working alone, he laid the foundation for his system of the world. Thereafter, Berlinski describes the creation of Newton's masterpiece, the "Principia Mathematica," the monumental feuds that poisoned his soul and that wearied his supporters, and Newton's final re-creation of himself as the master of England's financial system. This is less an exhaustive biography than an appreciation of Newton's greatest accomplishment. When he brought together years of work and towering logic into his "system of the world," Newton projected just one human mind to the outermost stars and planets. At once, he forever redefined the meaning of "nature," and of man's place in the cosmos. This seminal creative act has proved more powerful than that of any politician or king and more long-lasting than any dynasty. "Newton's Gift" is an edifying celebration of a transcendent man.
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Published January 1, 2001
Biographies & Memoirs, Science & Math, History.