The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

Edward Dolnick, Harper, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-171951-6
Bestselling author Dolnick (The Rescue Artist) focuses on the 17th century and the giants of early science—Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, and particularly Newton and Leibniz, whose independent invention of calculus made it possible to describe the moving, changing world and opened up a literal universe of possibilities. Dolnick writes clearly and unpretentiously about science, and writes equally well about the tumultuous historical context for these men's groundbreaking discoveries: the English Civil War, the Thirty Years' War, and in 1665 and 1666 respectively, the Black Plague and the Great Fire of London. Dolnick also offers penetrating portraits of the geniuses of the day, many of them idiosyncratic in the extreme, who offer fertile ground for entertaining writing. (Newton's feuds with Leibniz and Robert Hooke, another scientific titan of the day, are almost as famous as his discoveries.) While Dolnick uncovers nothing new, he has an eye for vivid details in aid of historical recreation, and an affection for his subjects, which all translate into a light but informative read coming suitably on the heels of the Royal Society's 350th anniversary. 8 pages of color photos. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/2010
Release date: 02/01/2011
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