cover image Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton

Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton

Rob Iliffe. Oxford, $34.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-19-999535-6

In this compelling look at Isaac Newton, Iliffe (Newton: A Very Short Introduction), professor of history at the University of Oxford, draws deeply on newly available papers to explore Newton’s lifelong fascination with theological matters. Iliffe skillfully chronicles Newton’s life from his childhood and his college years at Trinity College, Cambridge, to his later experiments in physics and the writings that gained him notoriety (especially the Principia Mathematica) at a time when religious and political controversies were swirling around England. Iliffe adroitly illustrates that, from the beginning, Newton displayed deep interests in scriptural interpretation, the history of the early Church, and the idea of prophecy, notably as it relates to the book of Revelation. He points out that in the “General Scholium,” an appendix to the Principia, Newton challenges the notion that Jesus is simply God in human form by stressing that the divine mode of being in our world is completely unknown to us. Iliffe’s fascinating study provides an absorbing glimpse into Newton’s work and early modern culture. (July)