Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d

Mary Losure. Candlewick, $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7063-4
In this charming biography of Isaac Newton (1642–1727), Losure (Wild Boy) posits that “this last sorcerer—this greatest of all alchemists—was the same man who banished magic from the scientific world.” Portrayed as an uncommonly inquisitive, albeit reclusive, thinker with a secret addiction to alchemy (not an unusual preoccupation in a period when the borders between science and magic were uncertain), Newton may have written as many as a million words regarding alchemy, papers he kept while destroying many related to his revolutionary work in other fields: mathematics, optics, and what is now called physics. Interspersing engrossing chapters about alchemy (but largely ignoring the last third of Newton’s life), Losure uses a light touch to trace his childhood endeavors, his rise from student to professor at Cambridge’s Trinity College, his prickly relationship with other scientists in the Royal Society (Newton became a member in 1672), and the publication of his masterpiece, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, in 1687. Period images and afterwords with curiosity-spiking headings such as “Stinks, Bangs & More Chymical Secrets” bring additional depth and interest to this study of Newton’s surprising pursuits. Ages 10–up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/05/2016
Release date: 02/14/2017
Genre: Children's
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