New York Times bestselling author Edward Dolnick brings to light the true story of one of the most pivotal moments in modern intellectual history—when a group of strange, tormented geniuses invented science as we know it, and remade our understanding of the world. Dolnick’s earth-changing story of Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the birth of modern science is at once an entertaining romp through the annals of academic history, in the vein of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, and a captivating exploration of a defining time for scientific progress, in the tradition of Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder.
For this narrative of the seventeenth century’s scientific revolution, Dolnick embeds the mathematical discoveries of Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Leibniz in the prevailing outlook of their time. God was presumed integral to the universe, so discerning how it worked was a quest as theological as it was intellectual. By directing readers to the deistic drive in their famous achievements, Dolnick accents what otherwise strikes moderns as strange, such as Newton’s obsession with alchemy and biblical hermeneutics. Those pursuits held codes to God’s mind, as did motion and, especially, planetary motion, and Dolnick’s substance follows the greats’ progress in code-breaking, depicting Kepler’s mathematical thought process in devising his laws, Galileo’s in breaking out the vectors of falling objects, Newton’s and Leibniz’s in inventing calculus, and Newton’s in formulating his laws of gravitation. Including apt biographical detail, Dolnick humanizes the group, socializes them by means of their connections to such coevals as the members of the nascent Royal Society, and captures their mental coexistence in mysticism and rationality. A concise explainer, Dolnick furnishes a fine survey introduction to a fertile field of scientific biography and history.
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