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Gleick moves between a comprehensive historical portrait and a dramatic focus on Newton's significant letters and unpublished notebooks to illuminate the real importance of his work in physics, in optics, and in calculus.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.
Read by Allan Couruner.
Book: 5, Digital Recording: 2
Gleick's book is a comfortable to understand version of both the science and math that is Newton, as well as great details of its developmental steps - generated by taking bits and pieces from those who came before him, and then organizing the pieces to see the "big picture." It also describes how his unique surroundings (isolation due to plague, new tools (both physical and mathematical he created), and his rural environs) contributed to the scientific and mathematical developments. I enjoyed the substance marvelously. Coupled with the recent Einstein book by Isackson, they make marvelous science/math primers, as wrll as biographical sketches. The only downside to the substance is that Newton - a nerd, a virgin to his death, and a recluse - lived a much more interesting life in his studies and writings than in life itself. The comparative Einstein tome chronicles the much more interesting intersection between sheer genius and an interesting life.
The sound quality was very weak. I could hear it fine when I was in isolation, in my car (off the highway), or away from ambient noise. Otherwise, it was too low to enjoy even when my iPod was at full blast.
Bad Transfer - Wait for Fix
The transfer to digital audio files ruined this recording. It's far to quiet and the narration sounds very metallic from too much compression. I had to turn my volume up 100% on my iPod. Apple support has been notified. From what I did listen to it was very interesting - just can't listen to it in a car or plane. I'll give it 4 stars when the audio quality is fixed - would've been 5 but I expect quality from Apple and this slipped between the cracks of the Q.C. process.