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 The Clockwork Universe is the story of a band of men who lived in a world of dirt and disease but pictured a universe that ran like a perfect machine A meld of history and science this book is a grou

  • Title: The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World
  • Author: Edward Dolnick
  • ISBN: 9780061719516
  • Page: 242
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The Clockwork Universe is the story of a band of men who lived in a world of dirt and disease but pictured a universe that ran like a perfect machine A meld of history and science, this book is a group portrait of some of the greatest minds who ever lived as they wrestled with nature s most sweeping mysteries The answers they uncovered still hold the key to how we undersThe Clockwork Universe is the story of a band of men who lived in a world of dirt and disease but pictured a universe that ran like a perfect machine A meld of history and science, this book is a group portrait of some of the greatest minds who ever lived as they wrestled with nature s most sweeping mysteries The answers they uncovered still hold the key to how we understand the world.At the end of the seventeenth century an age of religious wars, plague, and the Great Fire of London when most people saw the world as falling apart, these earliest scientists saw a world of perfect order They declared that, chaotic as it looked, the universe was in fact as intricate and perfectly regulated as a clock This was the tail end of Shakespeare s century, when the natural land the supernatural still twined around each other Disease was a punishment ordained by God, astronomy had not yet broken free from astrology, and the sky was filled with omens It was a time when little was known and everything was new These brilliant, ambitious, curious men believed in angels, alchemy, and the devil, and they also believed that the universe followed precise, mathematical laws a contradiction that tormented them and changed the course of history.The Clockwork Universe is the fascinating and compelling story of the bewildered geniuses of the Royal Society, the men who made the modern world.

    528 Comment

    • Will Byrnes says:

      Chaotic as it looked, these earliest scientists declared, the universe was in fact an intricate and perfectly regulated clockwork. This was the tail-end of Shakespeare's century, and these were brilliant, ambitious, confused, conflicted men. They believed in angels and alchemy and the devil, and they believed that the universe followed precise, mathematical laws. -- from the author’s websiteLondon in 1660 was a pretty gross place. Refuse and worse clogged the streets. Buildings were thrown tog [...]

    • Cari says:

      While browsing the bookstore and idly picking up anything that looked vaguely interesting, I found The Clockwork Universe, which caught my admittedly somewhat eccentric, wide-ranging curiosity. Within a few hours I had a line of people calling dibs on reading it next (my mother, an ex, a geeky friend, a not-so-geeky drinking buddy) and only one dear friend (a pretentious robot on occasion) rolling his eyes before wandering off to the rest of my bookshelves. I found this burst of enthusiasm (or c [...]

    • Angela says:

      Old-timey science! It’s not just dudes in powdered wigs! Naw, it's about their ecstatic sense of wonder, grueling focus, and sometimes batshit craziness! Dolnick is an incredible spinner of yarns. He builds a narrative with humor and panache, whether it’s something inspiring like Newton’s drive to study the infinite, or something just weird, like Leeuwenhoek looking at his own sperm through a microscope. Also, hurray for delicious, bite-sized chapters! However, Dolnick is a better science [...]

    • Jean Poulos says:

      The book takes place in the 1600 hundreds in Europe. Superstition and belief in the supernatural were common place. To this background Dolnick tells us the stories of Isaacs Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Descartes, and Leibniz. These men discovered and described the forces that kept the earth, moon and all the planets spinning in their orbits, thereby ushering in the modern era. At the beginning of the book the author discusses the plague and life in the 1600s; he also discusses diarist S [...]

    • Ben says:

      The year 1660 was a turning point in British political, cultural and intellectual life. The restoration of King Charles II, after eleven brutal years of military dictatorship, awoke a new spirit of vibrancy and optimism in Britain. And one of the earliest yet most enduring results of the new era was the formation of the Royal Society.It was a heady time and there are heady tales to be told of it, both in history and in fiction. Among the most successful of the latter are Neal Stephenson’s thre [...]

    • Kevin O'Brien says:

      This was a slightly tricky book to rate. I gave it four stars out of five on the merit of the book itself, though I would recommend it mostly to people who are interested in the history of science but not heavily read in that area already. This book is not one that sets a standard for scholarship, but is a well-written introduction to a worthy topic.Isaac Newton is the primary focus of this book, though his rival Leibniz also comes in for some discussion. And Newton is valuable because he repres [...]

    • Jason says:

      The best passage of this book is in the conclusion of chapter 9:Scientists tend to have little interest in history, even the history of their own subject. They turn to the past only to pluck out the discoveries and insights that turned out to be fruitful—Boyle, for instance, is known today for “Boyle’s law,” relating pressure and volume in gases—and they toss the rest aside.In fields where the notion of progress is indisputable, such disdain for the past is common. The explanation is n [...]

    • Greg Tatum says:

      The most salient part of this book is the exploration of the switch from a mathematics dealing with discrete numbers, to a mathematics that could deal with continuous and infinite numbers. In other terms this book explores the rise of calculus and its repercussions on the world. My expectations of the book were different than what it delivered. The publisher's summary stated very succinctly, "The Clockwork Universe is the fascinating and compelling story of the bewildered geniuses of the Royal S [...]

    • Kurt says:

      A very interesting and well-written history of the early days of the modern scientific age, including great descriptions of the prevailing culture, attitudes, philosophies, and standards of living that accompanied the men (sorry, but they were all men) who ushered in the science and mathematics that govern our modern world. The story of how Isaac Newton discovered calculus and how he applied it to explain so many theretofore mysteries of our universe is one of the truly great stories in the hist [...]

    • Max says:

      In 1600 the philosopher Bruno was burned at the stake for proclaiming that the earth was just one of many planets in solar systems throughout the universe. In 1633 Galileo was sentenced to imprisonment, subsequently commuted to house arrest, by the Roman Inquisition for saying that the planets revolved around the sun. But in 1705 for Newton’s work showing gravity held the planets in their orbits around the sun, he was knighted by Queen Anne. Two years earlier Newton had been elected President [...]

    • Ms.pegasus says:

      Dolnick's claim that the 17th century was the birth of modernity is tempered as the book progresses. By that time, painting had already moved from static religious iconography to application of perspective, chiaroscuro, and portraiture toward a kind of dramatic expression that appeals to the modern eye. Science in the 17th century was still, however, a mix of contradictions. Isaac Newton, the scientific genius of the era, expended considerable time and energy on experiments in alchemy. Members o [...]

    • Aeron says:

      This book is extremely well written. Dolnick makes the material seem easy to understand and relevant to a modern audience. It is primarily about Isaac Newton, and essentially makes a case that Newton was so far above and beyond any genius we've ever seen that it's hard to fathom. What Newton did for mathematics and physics is staggering. But Dolnick also points out the changing world at that time - the group of natural philosophers of the Royal Society working to figure out how the world really [...]

    • Tim says:

      Overall, not a bad book and I did learn some new things. I'm definitely not a fan of the audio book reader, though. That said, I eventually got used to him and didn't mind in the end.I didn't like the first portion of the book which is basically spent describing plagues and a fire in London. That said, the author does an excellent job describing the various contributions of Copernicus, Kepler, Brahe, Descartes and Galileo. The explanations are pitched at a level for the layman and are well done [...]

    • Jason Pettus says:

      (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)This is one of those "NPR-worthy" nonfiction titles I'm a fan of, in this case a concise look at the formation of Britain's Royal Society in the 1600s, essentially the very first scientific organization in human history, closely associated with Sir Isaac Newton and one of the main subjects of Neal Stephenson's [...]

    • Lucas Miller says:

      Well-written science nonfiction is a treat that I relish and this book delivers in spades. Newton is the book's main focal point but it also spends considerable time detailing the contributions of Galileo, Kepler, Leibniz, Hook, Leeuwenhoek and others. The description of calculus was clear and even, I have to admit, compelling (I have a BA rather than a BS because I refused to take calculus). The religious devotion of these pioneers was surprising and Dolnick does a nice job of pointing out the [...]

    • Ken says:

      I picked this up after hearing the author appear on WNYC public radio. This is a superb idea for a book: not just a history of science, but a history of the scientific method. It's about the age when thinkers stopped prioritizing "knowledge from authority" and started developing methods for experimentation and discovery. And it's extremely well-written, evocative, fascinating.

    • Brendan Monroe says:

      I'd definitely file this under "light reads" but it was entertaining nonetheless. Of course, certain parts were more entertaining than others. I absorbed with pleasure the bits about the odd little quirks of certain members of the Royal Society, but the several chapters that dealt with Newton's invention of calculus were something of a snore. The book is essentially about the various rivalries that existed between Isaac Newton and various other scientists, the main being Newton's German contempo [...]

    • Emily (BellaGrace) says:

      I've been picking at this book for several months now. For me it wasn't a book to sit and read in one setting - some of the topics are pretty heavy and I preferred to read it in sections. For anyone interested in the ideas in this book, but don't want to read it I recommend an episode of Nova that aired last month link: The Great Math Mystery which explains Newtons discoveries of gravity and why falling objects move at the same speed regardless of weight. Another awesome video by a science progr [...]

    • Daphne says:

      My favorite section was the last half. I love math, but only applied mathematics. I've always struggled with pure math for maths sake, but enjoyed it when it was involved in my other courses like chemistry and biology. The author describing the discovery of calculus and why it mattered I found fascinating. The first half was a very general overview of the time period this book is centered around. It was interesting, and if someone hasn't already read dozens of general history books about this ti [...]

    • Bronwyn says:

      This was fine. Interesting enough. Good at explaining some of the trickier concepts easily. Very basic overview of everything, though, and a bit too pop-y - when you compare something to The DaVinci Code or posters on someone's wall noa: Some of my impression of the book may have been the audiobook narrator. I didn't care for him. The book may be better on it's own, but it's definitely still pop-sciencey and not what I was expecting.

    • Nathaniel Dean says:

      Not bad, but not great. A excellent insight into Newton and the time period in which he lived, but I found that I admired Newton less the more I learned about him. I know that this is the point but it also meant the text dragged a bit. Also because I am a math and science person, I found the chapters about infinity and limits to be a bit dragging even if they were necessary for people unfamiliar with calculus.

    • Mike says:

      Here we have a treatise on the "invention" of modern mathematics and, following closely behind, the modern scientific worldview. The book is a mix of Sir Isaac newton's personality and accomplishments. I always find the mathematical explanation of natural occurrences to be interesting and this book did not disappoint in that regard. For a laic explanation of what was happening in Europe during the late 1600s and early 1700s from a scientific progress standpoint, this book is an excellent introdu [...]

    • Hannah says:

      This was tough to rate, because some parts left me breathless with excitement (about calculus equations, of all things!) but some parts I found very dull (especially the bits about religion). Very interesting for the most part - I never knew math could be so dramatic. The fact that someone had to invent the concept of a graph absolutely blew my mind.

    • Tudor Ciocarlie says:

      "Nature and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night: God said, “Let Newton be!” and all was light."

    • Patrick Ross says:

      The Clockwork Universe is the most readable book you'll ever encounter that delves deeply into geometry and calculus. (You didn't tell me there would be math on this test!) But the fact is that you don't have to pay too much attention to his explanation of the mathematics used by Newton and others to calculate how the universe really works; you can if you choose simply enjoy the stories Dolnick tells of the great minds of the 16th and 17th Centuries who changed the way we think about our world.N [...]

    • J.S. says:

      Science and religion are often at odds in today's highly polarized and contentious world, each sneeringly scornful and antagonistic toward the other. Yet that relationship was very different when some of the greatest leaps of scientific understanding occurred. Edward Dolnick gives us excellent and readable biographical profiles of the greats like Galileo and Kepler, Leibniz and Newton as well others who were instrumental in the birth of modern science. He says "Newton's intent in all his work wa [...]

    • Carissa Goble says:

      Probably my favorite non-fiction read since Devil and the White City. The Clockwork Universe tackles an ambitious amount of material and with it oversimplifies a lot in favor of saving space and selling his point, but in the end it touches on so many subjects that the overarching approach is what makes it manageable. This is a book that sets out to show the dichotomy of seventeenth century scientists who were devoted to both religion and scientific endeavors. While many may be frustrated with th [...]

    • John says:

      I started off reading this for work purposes but, by the end of the working day, realized I was enjoying it a whole heck of a lot more than the piece of leisure reading I'd begun that morning. So I put aside (and have since discarded) my leisure read and kept going with this instead! Over the next couple of days I was reading it with all the fervor I might have read a thriller, albeit pausing every now and then to make a note.The book's subtitle, while technically correct, is a tad misleading. T [...]

    • Bill says:

      Delnick provides an interesting and well written history of the development of modern science by such famous men as Galileo, Descartes, Kepler, Newton and Leibniz. These men lived in the 1600s when life was brutal. Life expectancy was 30; child mortality was rampant; garbage, including human waste, was piled high in cities; people washed, if at all, once per year; and plagues killed thousands. Men also believed that God punished people for their sins in fiery hell but He was also the creator of [...]

    • Shoshana says:

      This book, from the title onward, was a disaster. The only saving grace to this book is its witty tone and accessible writing style--which at points even tend to work against the author. The content is often false and misleading and accusatory towards 16th century science in ways it should not be. The title really says it all--"The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton" Well, there's the problem right there. Isaac Newton didn't believe in the Clockwork Universe. It's a horrible misconception promoted [...]

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