cover image Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

Gale E. Christianson, . . Oxford Univ., $17.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-19-530070-3

Christianson has built a small empire of Newton biographies, including the full-length In the Presence of the Creator and the much briefer Isaac Newton and the Scientific Revolution . In fact, this volume is more or less identical to the briefer one, published by Oxford in 1996 as part of its young adult Portraits in Science series. The relatively simple prose betrays its origins, but the book itself gives a solid and accessible introduction to the life and work of Newton (1642–1727), from his early days at Cambridge to his time as a member of Parliament in the critical year of 1689, after King James II fled to France, and the political battles that surrounded Newton's later work as master of the mint. "Newton was a loner pure and simple, secure in the knowledge that he was without peers when it came to almost all matters cerebral," Christianson writes. This biography works best as a brief introduction for general readers; those familiar with the general history of science (or, for that matter, those who've read Neal Stephenson's vastly more nuanced if fictional portrayal of Newton in his Baroque Cycle) will find little that isn't familiar. (Nov.)