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Who Was Isaac Newton?
by Janet Pascal
Grosset & Dunlap (2014)
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Isaac Newton was always a loner, preferring to spend his time contemplating the mysteries of the universe. When the plague broke out in London in 1665 he was forced to return home from college. It was during this period of so much death, that Newton gave life to some of the most important theories in modern science, including gravity and the laws of motion.

The Principia : Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
by Isaac Newton
University of California Press (1999)
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In his monumental 1687 work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, known familiarly as the Principia, Isaac Newton laid out in mathematical terms the principles of time, force, and motion that have guided the development of modern physical science. Even after more than three centuries and the revolutions of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, Newtonian physics continues to account for many of the phenomena of the observed world, and Newtonian celestial dynamics is used to determine the orbits of our space vehicles.

This completely new translation, the first in 270 years, is based on the third (1726) edition, the final revised version approved by Newton; it includes extracts from the earlier editions, corrects errors found in earlier versions, and replaces archaic English with contemporary prose and up-to-date mathematical forms.

Newton's principles describe acceleration, deceleration, and inertial movement; fluid dynamics; and the motions of the earth, moon, planets, and comets. A great work in itself, the Principia also revolutionized the methods of scientific investigation. It set forth the fundamental three laws of motion and the law of universal gravity, the physical principles that account for the Copernican system of the world as emended by Kepler, thus effectively ending controversy concerning the Copernican planetary system.

The illuminating Guide to the Principia by I. Bernard Cohen, along with his and Anne Whitman's translation, will make this preeminent work truly accessible for today's scientists, scholars, and students.

Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities (For Kids series)
by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Chicago Review Press (2009)
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Isaac Newton was as strange as he was intelligent. In a few short years, he made astounding discoveries in physics, astronomy, optics, and mathematics— yet never told a soul. Though isolated, snobbish, and jealous, he almost single-handedly changed the course of scientific advancement and ushered in the Enlightenment. Newton invented the refracting telescope, explained the motion of planets and comets, discovered the multicolored nature of light, and created an entirely new field of mathematical understanding: calculus. The world might have been a very different place had Netwon’s theories and observations not been coaxed out of him by his colleagues.
Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids paints a rich portrait of this brilliant and complex man, including 21 hands-on projects that explore the scientific concepts Newton developed and the times in which he lived. Readers will build a simple waterwheel, create a 17thcentury plague mask, track the phases of the moon, and test Newton’s Three Laws of Motion using coins, a skateboard, and a model boat they construct themselves. The text includes a time line, online resources, and reading list for further study. And through it all, readers will learn how the son of a Woolsthorpe sheep farmer grew to become the most influential physicist in history.

The System of the World: Observing the Heavens (Isaac Newton )
by Isaac Newton
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2015)
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The System of the World

Isaac Newton

The System of the World

Observing the Heavens

It was the ancient opinion of not a few, in the earliest ages of philosophy, that the fixed stars stood immoveable in the highest parts of the world; that, under the fixed stars the planets were carried about the sun; that the earth, us one of the planets, described an annual course about the sun, while by a diurnal motion it was in the mean time revolved about its own axis; and that the sun, as the common fire which served to warm the whole, was fixed in the centre of the universe.

This was the philosophy taught of old by Philolaus, Aristarchus of Samos, Plato in his riper years, and the whole sect of the Pythagoreans; and this was the judgment of Anaximander, more ancient than any of them; and of that wise king of the Romans, Numa Pompilius, who, as a symbol of the figure of the world with the sun in the centre, erected a temple in honour of Vesta, of a round form, and ordained perpetual fire to be kept in the middle of it.

The Egyptians were early observers of the heavens; and from them, probably, this philosophy was spread abroad among other nations; for from them it was, and the nations about them, that the Greeks, a people of themselves more addicted to the study of philology than of nature, derived their first, as well as soundest, notions of philosophy ; and in the vestal ceremonies we may yet trace the ancient spirit of the Egyptians; for it was their way to deliver their mysteries, that is, their philosophy of things above the vulgar way of thinking, under the veil of religious rites and hieroglyphic symbols.

The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3)
by Neal Stephenson
William Morrow Paperbacks (2005)
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England, 1714. London has long been home to a secret war between the brilliant, enigmatic Master of the Mint and closet alchemist, Isaac Newton, and his archnemesis, the insidious counterfeiter Jack the Coiner. Hostilities are suddenly moving to a new and more volatile level as Half-Cocked Jack hatches a daring plan, aiming for the total corruption of Britain's newborn monetary system.

Enter Daniel Waterhouse: Aging Puritan and Natural Philosopher, Daniel has been on a long and harrowing quest to help mend the rift between adversarial geniuses. As Daniel combs city and country for clues to the identity of the blackguard who is attempting to blow up Natural Philosophers, political factions jockey for position while awaiting the impending death of the ailing queen, and the "holy grail" of alchemy, the key to life eternal, tantalizes and continues to elude Isaac Newton.

As Newton, Waterhouse, and Shaftoe each circle closer to the object of Daniel's quest, everything that was will be changed forever ...

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts: Union Soldiers, Prisoners, Spies
by Gordon L. Olson
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2014)
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While large armies engaged in epic battles in the eastern theater of the Civil War, a largely unchronicled story was unfolding along the Mississippi River. Thirty "Special Scouts" under the command of Lieutenant Isaac Newton Earl patrolled the river, gathering information about Confederate troop activity, arresting Rebel smugglers and guerillas, and opposing anti-Union insurrection. Gordon Olson gives this special unit full book-length treatment for the first time in The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts.

Olson uses new research in assembling his detailed yet very readable account of Earl, a dynamic leader who rose quickly through Union Army ranks to command this elite group. He himself was captured by the Confederates three times and escaped three times, and he developed a strategic -- and later romantic -- relationship with a Southern woman, Jane O'Neal, who became one of his spies. In keeping the river open for Union Army movement of men and supplies to New Orleans, Earl's Scouts played an important, heretofore unheralded, role in the Union's war effort.

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World
by Edward Dolnick
Harper Perennial (2012)
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New York Times bestselling author Edward Dolnick brings to light the true story of one of the most pivotal moments in modern intellectual history—when a group of strange, tormented geniuses invented science as we know it, and remade our understanding of the world. Dolnick’s earth-changing story of Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the birth of modern science is at once an entertaining romp through the annals of academic history, in the vein of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, and a captivating exploration of a defining time for scientific progress, in the tradition of Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder.

Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist
by Thomas Levenson
Mariner Books (2010)
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A fascinating slice of true-crime history that unfolds in 1695, when law enforcement was unheard of and modern money was little more than a concept

When renowned scientist Isaac Newton took up the post of Warden of His Majesty’s Mint in London, another kind of genius—a preternaturally gifted counterfeiter named William Chaloner—had already taken up residence in the city, rising quickly in an unruly, competitive underworld. In the courts and streets of London, and amid the tremors of a world being transformed by ideas Newton himself had set in motion, Chaloner crosses paths with the formidable new warden. An epic game of cat and mouse ensues in Newton and the Counterfeiter, revealing for the first time that Newton was not only one of the greatest minds of his age, but also a remarkably intrepid investigator. Review:
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In 1695, Isaac Newton--already renowned as the greatest mind of his age--made a surprising career change. He left quiet Cambridge, where he had lived for thirty years and made his earth-shattering discoveries, and moved to London to take up the post of Warden of His Majesty's Mint. Newton was preceded to the city by a genius of another kind, the budding criminal William Chaloner. Thanks to his preternatural skills as a counterfeiter, Chaloner was rapidly rising in London's highly competitive underworld, at a time when organized law enforcement was all but unknown and money in the modern sense was just coming into being. Then he crossed paths with the formidable new warden. In the courts and streets of London--and amid the tremors of a world being transformed by the ideas Newton himself had set in motion--the two played out an epic game of cat and mouse.

A Q&A with Thomas Levenson, Author of Newton and the Counterfeiter

Q: Why did you decide to write Newton and the Counterfeiter?

A: I first encountered the connection at the heart of Newton and the Counterfeiter when I was working on a very different project in the mid '90s. A long out of print book quoted from one of the few letters between my counterfeiter, William Chaloner, and Isaac Newton--and on reading it I wondered: what on earth was such a scoundrel doing in correspondence with the greatest mind of the age? The question stuck with me for a decade, and finally I made the time to dig a little deeper. Once I did, I discovered two things that made this book both possible, and from a writer's point of view, inescapable. The first was a trove of original documents that chronicled Newton's involvement in the pursuit and prosecution of not just Chaloner, but dozens of other currency criminals. The second was the insight this one story gives into Newton himself--and of the real extent and impact of the revolutions (plural deliberate) which he so prominently led. Isaac Newton is best remembered, of course, as the man at the vanguard of the scientific revolution--a status established by his discoveries: the laws of motion, gravity, the calculus, and much more. But I found that this story gave me a sense of what it was like to live through that revolution at street level. It provided an example of Newton's mind at work, for one, and for another, it involved Newton in the second of the great 17th century transformations, the financial revolution that occurred in conjunction, and with some connection to the scientific one.

Newton, I found, was a bureaucrat, a man with a job running England's money supply at a time with surprising parallels to our own: new, poorly understood financial engineering to deal with what was a national currency and economic crisis. He was asked to think about money, and he did--and at the same time, he was given the job of Warden of the Mint, which among other duties put him charge of policing those who would fake or undermine the King's coins. So there I had it: a gripping true crime story, with life-and-death stakes and enough information to follow my leading characters through the bad streets and worse jails of London--and one that at the same time let me explore some of critical moves in the making of the world we inhabit through the mind and feelings of perhaps the greatest scientific thinker who ever lived. How could I resist that?

Q: Are there comparisons to be made to the financial times we are living in today in this country?

A: When I started writing this book, (c. 2005) the American and the global economy was seemingly in robust health. The American housing market was booming; financial markets the world over were trading happily back and forth, the Dow in June, when I started working in earnest on the project, stood comfortably over 10,000, with a 40% rise to come through the first and second drafts of the work. And then, of course, things changed--and by that time (too late to do my own financial situation any good) I realized that in the story of Newton's confrontation with Chaloner I could see many of the pathologies that define our current predicament. England's currency and its system of high finance--the big loans and big banks behind them needed to fund government--were both under increasing strain when Newton arrived at the Mint.

Part of the damage was being done through imbalances of trade, as silver flowed out of England to the European continent and ultimately to India and China. (Sound familiar?) That loss of metal had huge economic consequences when you remember that money itself was made of silver back then. No silver, no coins. No coins--and how are you going to buy a loaf of bread, a pound of beef, a barrel of beer (which was a staple, and not a luxury given the state of London’s drinking (sic) water). At the same time, England was waging a war it could not pay for. (Sound familiar?) The Treasury was broke. Financial engineering got its start in the ever more desperate attempts by the government to raise the money it needed to keep its army in the field against France. Newton and his counterfeiting nemesis William Chaloner both found themselves operating on unfamiliar territory, with paper abstractions standing in for what used to be literally hard cash. This was when bank notes were invented--and Chaloner forged some. This was when the government began to issue what were in essence bonds--and Chaloner forged some of those too. Personal cheques were coming in, and--you guessed it--Chaloner passed a couple of duds. Most significantly, the Bank of England invented fractional reserve lending--lending out a multiple of the actual cash reserves it held at any one time. This was the birth of leverage. Put it all together and you have most of the crucial ideas in modern finance appearing at almost the same instant. These are fantastically useful tools; the enormous expansion of wealth, of material comfort, of human well being that we’ve seen over the last three centuries, derives in part from the fact that the English and their trading counterparties were so impressively inventive in those decades. But at the same time, as we know now all too well, each and every one of those financial ideas are capable of abuse. Now add to the usual temptations to financial sin the besetting danger of ignorance, of the sheer unfamiliarity of the new instruments, and you have the makings of an almost inevitable disaster.

In 2009, we are dealing with that double trouble: deliberate frauds combining with the larger problem that the complexity and sheer deep strangeness of new financial products allowed a lot of so-called smart money to make big bets they didn’t understand. Exactly the same kinds of pressures were building in Newton's day, and the financial crisis that Newton helped resolve in the 1690s kept spawning sequels, until in the 1720s, Newton himself got caught up in a disaster that in many ways eerily anticipates the one we are living through now. The South Sea Bubble of 1720 was born of a good idea--what we would now call a debt-for-equity swap--but rapidly turned into a fraud and then at the last a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme. What I found most striking is that Newton, who of all men had the mathematical chops to figure out that the South Sea promises couldn't possibly be met, still got sucked in by the promise of outsize returns. Avarice, desire, or perhaps in Newton's case just the agony of the thought that others were getting richer while he was not, propelled him into investing in the bubble at its very peak. According to his niece, he lost 20,000 pounds in a matter of months--which in today’s money would be roughly three million pounds, or close to five million dollars. The moral, at least the lesson I took from this personally? No one, not even Newton, and certainly not me, is smart enough to be smarter than one's own emotions. And that grim fact, as much as any specific financial innovation, lies behind our current economic woes, and surely caught that great thinker Isaac Newton in its grip as well.

Q: Tell us about your research.

A: I was fortunate in this project--in fact, I only took on the book--because there was a rich lode of little-known documents that told the story of the clash between Newton and Chaloner. Five large folders survive of Newton's own notes, drafts and memos covering his official duties at the Mint. Examining them, especially drafts of replies to some of Chaloner's most audacious attacks on him at Parliamentary hearings, it is possible to see across time to Newton's mounting frustration and anger at his antagonist: his handwriting gets worse, more cramped, swift, and in general ticked off as he works through his responses. I was also able to find the handful of documents that can be unequivocally attributed to Chaloner: a couple of pamphlets he had printed to display his expertise in the making and manipulation of coin, and to allege incompetence, or worse at Newton's Mint. To that I added a marvelous, if not entirely reliable, moralizing biography of Chaloner, hastily written and published within days of his execution. That was one of the early examples of what became a staple pulp genre--edifying and titillating accounts of the wicked, in which any admiration for the rascals being chronicled were carefully wrapped up through the appropriate bad ends to which all the subjects of such works were doomed.

But of all the wellsprings of this book, none were more important than the file it took me over a year to find. I knew that some of the records Isaac Newton's criminal interrogations survived, because I found reference to them in a couple of the older biographies and other secondary sources. But in the reorganization of British official records that took place in the decades after World War II, the cataloguing systems for Mint files had undergone enough changes that this crucial set of documents had slipped out of sight of the contemporary Newton scholarly community. I managed to track it down to its current location in the Public Records Office, and then I had writer's gold: more than four hundred separate documents, most countersigned by Newton himself, that allowed me to retrace his steps as a criminal investigator informer by informer. Most fortunately--Newton’s nephew-in-law reported that he helped his wife's uncle burn many of his Mint interrogation records. But the entire Chaloner case remained in the one surviving folder, and it made for fascinating, gripping reading. Once Newton realized how formidable an opponent he had in Chaloner, he proved relentless in reconstructing not just particular crimes, but the whole architecture of counterfeiting and coining as it was practiced in London in the 1690s. You get to see, smell, hear how the bad guys worked, in their own words, as elicited by a man who (surprise!) proved to be exceptionally good at extracting the evidence he needed to solve a problem.

(Photo © Joel Benjamin)

World History Biographies: Isaac Newton: The Scientist Who Changed Everything (National Geographic World History Biographies)
by Philip Steele
National Geographic Children's Books (2013)
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Born in England in 1643, Isaac Newton grew up in the age when Renaissance thinkers were challenging accepted ideas throughout Europe. Fascinated by all earthly science, Newton developed laws of motion and universal gravitation which also furthered our understanding of the movement of celestial bodies. This vibrant biography profiles the famed physicist as an acclaimed mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, philosopher, and inventor as well. Readers will discover the genius who inspired Alexander Pope to write,

"Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said 'Let Newton be' and all was light."

National Geographic supports K-12 educators with ELA Common Core Resources.
Visit for more information. 

From the Hardcover edition.

Isaac Newton
by James Gleick
Vintage (2004)
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Isaac Newton was born in a stone farmhouse in 1642, fatherless and unwanted by his mother. When he died in London in 1727 he was so renowned he was given a state funeral—an unheard-of honor for a subject whose achievements were in the realm of the intellect. During the years he was an irascible presence at Trinity College, Cambridge, Newton imagined properties of nature and gave them names—mass, gravity, velocity—things our science now takes for granted. Inspired by Aristotle, spurred on by Galileo’s discoveries and the philosophy of Descartes, Newton grasped the intangible and dared to take its measure, a leap of the mind unparalleled in his generation.

James Gleick, the author of Chaos and Genius, and one of the most acclaimed science writers of his generation, brings the reader into Newton’s reclusive life and provides startlingly clear explanations of the concepts that changed forever our perception of bodies, rest, and motion—ideas so basic to the twenty-first century, it can truly be said: We are all Newtonians. Review:
As a schoolbook figure, Isaac Newton is most often pictured sitting under an apple tree, about to discover the secrets of gravity. In this short biography, James Gleick reveals the life of a man whose contributions to science and math included far more than the laws of motion for which he is generally famous. Gleick's always-accessible style is hampered somewhat by the need to describe Newton's esoteric thinking processes. After all, the man invented calculus. But readers who stick with the book will discover the amazing story of a scientist obsessively determined to find out how things worked. Working alone, thinking alone, and experimenting alone, Newton often resorted to strange methods, as when he risked his sight to find out how the eye processed images:

.... Newton, experimental philosopher, slid a bodkin into his eye socket between eyeball and bone. He pressed with the tip until he saw 'severall white darke & coloured circles'.... Almost as recklessly, he stared with one eye at the sun, reflected in a looking glass, for as long as he could bear.

From poor beginnings, Newton rose to prominence and wealth, and Gleick uses contemporary accounts and notebooks to track the genius's arc, much as Newton tracked the paths of comets. Without a single padded sentence or useless fact, Gleick portrays a complicated man whose inspirations required no falling apples. --Therese Littleton

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