Book: Newton: Ackroyd’s Brief Lives by Peter Ackroyd
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publication date: 2006
Summary: Isaac Newton is presented in all his brilliance and fiery temper in Newton by Peter Ackroyd.
Thoughts: A small book, the brief life of Newton still manages to tell the tale from birth to death with enough detail to keep it interesting. There is even room for quotes in Newton’s own words, like this account of his use of the prism he purchased at Stourbridge Fair near Cambridge to test
the celebrated Phaenomena of Colours. And in order thereto having darkened my chamber, and made a small hole in my window-shuts, to let in a convenient quantity of the Suns light, I placed my Prisme at its entrance, that it might be thereby refracted to the opposite wall. It was at first a very pleasing divertisement, to view the vivid and intense colours produced thereby. (p. 25)
And, there is room for a critical quote by the Romantic poet, Keats in Lamia:
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line….
Unweave a rainbow. (p. 139)
Although I have some sympathy for Keats’ position, by this point in the book, I thought his portrayal of Newton was uninformed and unfair.
I read Newton in preparation for a hoped-for trip to England in the fall that I expect to focus on the Scientific Revolution. I was inspired to create one of those new Pinterest boards with the maps. On it, I pinned the locations where Newton lived, went to school, and worked along with relevant quotes from Newton by Peter Ackroyd — check out Follow in the Footsteps of Isaac Newton.
Appeal: Newton, in the series Ackroyd’s Brief Lives, is short enough to appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in the life of the man who brought us the notion of forces operating at a distance, like gravity, and defined the way we see along with the tools we use to see things differently. See my Wondrous Words Wednesday post this week for a mildly gross diagram of how Newton explored changing the shape of the eyeball.
Challenges: This one small book counts for two of my challenges (but not, obviously, the Chunkster Challenge): my first book for the British History Challenge and my sixth one for the Nonfiction Challenge.
Have you read this book? What did you think?