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Isaac Newton

Written by: James Gleick
Narrated by: Allan Corduner
Length: 5 hrs and 45 mins
5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

James Gleick has long been fascinated by the making of science: how ideas order visible appearances, how equations can give meaning to molecular and stellar phenomena, how theories can transform what we see. In Chaos, he chronicled the emergence of a new way of looking at dynamic systems; in Genius, he portrayed the wondrous dimensions of Richard Feymnan's mind. Now, in Isaac Newton, he gives us the story of the scientist who, above all others, embodied humanity's quest to unveil the hidden forces that constitute the physical world.

In this original, sweeping, and intimate biography, Gleick moves between a comprehensive historical portrait and a dramatic focus on Newton's significant letters and unpublished notebooks to illuminate the real importance of his work in physics, in optics, and in calculus. He makes us see the old intuitive, alchemical universe out of which Newton's mathematics first arose and shows us how Newton's ideas have altered all forms of understanding from history to philosophy. And he gives us a moving account of the conflicting impulses that pulled at this man's heart: his quiet longings, his rage, his secrecy, the extraordinary subtleties of a personality that were mirrored in the invisible forces he first identified as the building blocks of science. More than biography, more than history, more than science, Isaac Newton tells us how, through the mind of one man, we have come to know our place in the cosmos.

©2003 James Gleick (P)2003 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

What the critics say

"Gleick renders a wonderful impression of the icon's mind." (Booklist)
"Allan Corduner's narration is a pleasure to listen to." (AudioFile)
"The extraordinary breadth of Newton's interests is brilliantly delineated by Gleick. Newton the man emerges from the shadows." (The New York Times Book Review)

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Truly Poetic

Not all biography can be poetic. A history of an Alexander or a Genghis Khan or a Stalin may be well-written, but the subject matter requires a certain restraint by the author lest it appear that the deplorable is being dignified. In other cases, like the stories of great philosophers or scientists, the bare facts of the subject's life are pretty mundane, so there may appear little material for poetry no matter how truly great the subject. Consider Kant or Fermi.

In other hands, the life of Newton could have fallen into the second category. The outward facts of his daily life were often dull and, in later life, too often tawdry. But the life of his mind was truly glorious. What makes this biography so remarkable is the author's ability to express the majesty and profundity of Newton's great achievements in mathematics and "philosophy" (physics) in language that conveys the beauty of his ideas but without sacrificing scientific rigour and precision.

The narration is masterly. Most often not noticed (as is proper), until one is struck with the felicity of some turn of phrase.

I loved the audiobook and have bought the Kindle as well.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Steven
  • 2005-08-28

I thought it was good

I do not agree with the previous reviewers. The author brought the personality and presence of Newton out in the only way one could--through meticulous research. The confllicts between Newton and Hook, and the descriptions of a man viewing the world in ways none before him could were very facinating and I listened to the book twice to hear the story again. If you are interested in genius and particularly mathematics and physics and how a great man of learning dealt with his genius in his own time, you will enjoy this book.

I will say that I have not read the author's other works, so I can't compare to them. But if they are better as the previous reviewers have indicated then I'm going to give them a listen also.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Andrew
  • 2005-05-25

BRUTAL

I am a fan of Gleick's work and of science writing in general, but this book is, unfortunately, a fumble. Newton the man is quite fascinating but rather than explicating on his personality Gleick elects to focus on a few interminable intellectual grudges that the godfather of physics held against his contemporaries. It becomes a real yawn after an hour, and then by hour three I was heavily regretting having downloaded this horrible, horrible book. How can someone make such an interesting topic so dull? If you are a fan of Chaos or Genius, Gleick's two best titles, know that you will get none of the rich weave of characters, history, and incisive explanations of scientific discoveries and their significance that you may have come to expect. Pass on this and download Bill Bryson's a Short History of Nearly Everything instead. You'll learn more about Newton that way, and get more bang for your buck.

48 of 52 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kermit
  • 2006-02-18

His real life

After reading so many myths about the man behind the legend, this was very refreshing. Newton is revealed for the first time with all of his flaws and a more indepth look at his real accomplishments. The book is well written and shows the level of research that was involved. Having established an negative outlook on the scintific value of Newton's discoveries, this volume has restored some of the merits of just how remarkable of a personage as he was.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • 2005-08-04

I must agree . . . . .

I must agree with "ironhands" - this is a horrible book. I couldn't make it to the end of the second disk before I gave up. Only the second audiobook out of nearly 80 that I have not finished once I started.

The book seems disjointed with very little concept of flow. What should have been a fascinating book on a fascinating man was a real disappointment. There is more coherent information on Newton in many other books by audible ("The Fabric of the Cosmos" for example).

A real lost opportunity.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Narek
  • 2015-04-08

Great general biography of Newton

I came into this book only knowing that an apple fell on Newtons head. The book expanded my knowledge on a lot of Newtons contributions including a broad understanding of Orbits, Light, and Gravity. Gleick portrays Newton as a real person and I enjoyed understanding who that person was, what his struggles were, and how he overcame them with considerable success. Learning about his struggles and secretive ways intrigued me the most. Great book, would recommend to anyone who wants to learn about Newton if they don't know much already.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Juha
  • 2014-06-24

Semi god who was just a half human?

What made the experience of listening to Isaac Newton the most enjoyable?

Newtons character and life is so interesting. Being simultaneusly the greatest scientist ever and one of the most pityfull character is always a great puzzlement for me

Who was your favorite character and why?

Oldenburg because he was a good "diplomat"

What does Allan Corduner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I love audiobooks since it is so enjoyble to be able to do something else (go shopping/cleaning...) but I can't pin point what Corduner contributed. I suppouse one really notices is the reader is bad --> Corduner has to be in my opinion good.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Newton being so full of hate and vile as to make "ananymous" letters defending himself.

Any additional comments?

Isaac Newton is such character that any book written on him is bound to be interesting.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Christopher
  • 2007-06-01

well worth reading

An excellent read. Concise, sympathetic, and interesting. Well researched and presented. I thoroughly enjoyed the narration. I will be listening to this book again. Five stars from me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark D. Schnittman
  • 2018-01-24

Interesting bio of a true genius

Newton was a strange character, and there is a lot about him that we will never know, due to his secrecy and lost records. However, this bio contains a wealth of information and is well written. Good vocal performance.

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  • MG
  • 2017-05-21

Good but Brief overview of Newton's career

Not much personal material. I would have liked an attempt to reconcile his many passions: optics, gravity, mechanics, religion, coinage, governance (royal society) et al. Illustrations would have helped. overall, I would recommend this title.

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  • Abbas
  • 2017-04-19

Standing on the shoulders of giants

This book has brought to light many of Newton's personality characteristics. Not many details were mentioned on Newton's life and interactions, which is to be expected from a person living in the 17th century. This has made this biography relatively short. However, it is entertaining and pleasing.