When Newton was not yet twenty-five years old, he formulated calculus, hit upon the idea of gravity, and discovered that white light was made up of all the colors of the spectrum. By 1678, Newton designed a telescope to study the movement of the planets and published Principia, a milestone in the history of science, which set forth his famous laws of motion and universal gravitation. Newton’s long-time research on calculus, finally made public in 1704, triggered a heated controversy as European scientists accused him of plagiarizing the work of the German scientist Gottfried Leibniz.
In this third volume in the acclaimed Ackroyd’s Brief Lives series, bestselling author Peter Ackroyd provides an engaging portrait of Isaac Newton, illuminating what we think we know about him and describing his seminal contributions to science and mathematics.
A man of wide and eclectic interests, Newton blurred the borders between natural philosophy and speculation: he was as passionate about astrology as astronomy and dabbled in alchemy, while his religious faith was never undermined by his determination to interpret a modern universe as a mathematical universe.
By brining vividly to life a somewhat puritanical man whose desire to experiment and explore bordered on the obsessive, Peter Ackroyd demonstrates the unique brilliance of Newton’s perceptions, which changed our understanding of the world.
About the Author
PETER ACKROYD is the biographer of William Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, and Thomas Moore, and the author of the bestselling London: The Biography. The subject of his previous Brief Life was J.M.W. Turner. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award (jointly), and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He is the author of Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, and his novels include The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (winner of the Somerset Maughn Award), Hawksmoor (Guardian Fiction Prize), Chatterton (short-listed for the Booker Prize), and most recently The Fall of Troy. He lives in London.
Praise for Newton: Ackroyd's Brief Lives…
“Newton is both impeccably researched and a wonderful read. An afternoon in the backyard hammock with ‘the grand autocrat of science.’”
–Los Angeles Times
“[Ackroyd] may well be the most prolific English author of his generation. And, which I find encouraging, he can write movingly and revealingly about Isaac Newton while being no more of a scientist or mathematician than I am.”
–Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair
“Astute and beautifully written…. Not surprisingly, the prolific Mr. Ackroyd, who is the author of 12 novels as well as biographies of Dickens, Thomas More, and Shakespeare–not to mention at least four histories of London–excels at re-creating the look and feel, at once grubby and exalted, of Newton's milieu. And Newton the man comes through splendidly in all the sheer arrogance of his driven genius.”
–The New York Sun
“The brief life of Newton meets a widespread need…. Ackroyd’s writing is a great pleasure to read.”
–The New Criterion
“A terrific piece of work… this is a wonderfully writerly book, never less than elegant in construction and execution.”
“Written in splendidly elastic prose, each sentence a springboard for the next, it provides a concise, fair and highly readable biography of a singular genius'.”
“Ackroyd's essay on [Newton] is understated and elegantly constructed.”
“Beautifully written and engaging.”