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The Clockwork Universe

Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World
The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World. Harper: HarperCollins. Feb. 2011. c.384p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780061719516. $27.99. SCI
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Perhaps the most important thing a reader can take from this book is a sense of just how immense were the intellectual leaps that led to concepts like calculus and the theory of gravity. At first, it seems you're being taken in a completely different direction—nearly the first quarter of the book is spent on historical and cultural background to set the stage for subsequent revelations. Only later does Dolnick (The Forger's Spell; Down the Great Unknown) really begin to explore the work of the intellectual giants of this era. He returns frequently to their personal and religious motivations, highlighting especially the nearly lifelong rivalry between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz. Spinning his tale such that it seems to jump around almost at random, Dolnick nevertheless always has an interesting new insight to share, and the brief chapters enhance the feeling of a quick, fun read.
VERDICT Those interested in the history of science or even just in exploring how the times in which someone lives shape his thought processes should find this volume fascinating.

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