The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World.
Edward Dolnick. The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World. New York: Harper, 2011.
This book, which examines the Scientific Enlightenment of the seventeenth century, is divided into three sections.
The first section (Chaos) covers the overthrow of Aristotelian science, the development of calculus, the role of mathematical laws in the Deist model that Newton developed, and some information on the multifaceted dynamo Gottfried Liebniz, who was Newton's intellectual equal in many ways. An overview of life in seventeenth century London, an existence characterized by plague, fire, and horrific punishments for lawbreakers that included drawing and quartering, is provided as well.
The second section (Hope and Monsters) includes apt biographical detail on the lives of Descartes, Kepler, Galileo, and other geniuses of the seventeenth century who through their scientific breakthroughs helped create the world we know today. It also contains geometric diagrams, formulas, graphs, and arithmetical techniques that may seem a bit daunting to those who are not mathematically inclined.
The third section (Into the Light) supplies insights into Newton's monumental Prinapia, one of the most important science books ever written, and the rivalry that went on between Newton and Leibniz over who invented calculus (a contest that favored Newton from the outset, as he wrote the report from the Royal Society committee that investigated the matter). It also talks about Newton's monomaniacal devotion to whatever he set his mind to.
The book's author, a former science writer at The Boston Globe and an amateur mathematician, tells his story in concise, vigorously written chapters, using simple language to explain complex concepts in math and physics. After reading the volume, you may find yourself heading to the library or Internet for more information on the seventeenth century's super men of science and their groundbreaking ideas.
MARTIN H. LEVINSON, PHD
EDITOR: MARTIN H. LEVINSON