Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

216 × 138 mm
272 pages
43 illustrations, 12 in colour
05 Feb 2018
Renaissance Lives

Isaac Newton and Natural Philosophy Niccolò Guicciardini

Isaac Newton is generally regarded as one of the greatest scientists in history, yet the spectrum of his interests was much broader than that of a contemporary scientist. He was deeply involved in alchemical, religious and biblical studies, and in the later part of his life he played a prominent role in British politics, economics and the promotion of scientific research. Newton’s pivotal work Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica, which sets out his laws of universal gravitation and motion, is regarded as one of the most important works in the history of science. Niccolò Guicciardini’s enlightening biography offers an accessible introduction to Newton’s celebrated work in mathematics, optics and astronomy and to how Newton viewed these scientific fields in relation to his quest for the deepest secrets of the universe, matter theory and religion. Guicciardini sets Newton the natural philosopher in the troubled context of the religious and political debates that took place during Newton’s life, which spanned from the years of the Civil War to the Restoration, the Glorious Revolution and the Hanoverian succession. Taking into account the latest Newtonian scholarship, this fast-paced biography will appeal to all those with an interest in this iconic figure and the great scientific revolution of the early modern period.

EXTRACT: to read and download an extract from the book's introduction please click here.

‘This pithy, nuanced biography of Isaac Newton examines the whole man, as a scientist born into the tumultuous seventeenth century and as an icon (and puzzle) through time. Science historian Niccolò Guicciardini reveals how Newton’s theories first received a mixed reception, then became a kind of “cultural fashion” after his death. In the 1930s, his private archive of recondite and theological investigations muddied the picture further. Now, as Guicciardini shows, we are able to see Newton as a brilliant problem-solver eager to crack complexities — in mathematics, metaphysics and alchemy.’

‘In this elegant and perceptive biography, one of the leading scholars of Isaac Newton’s career provides a clear and often startling summary of the life of one of the greatest early modern scholars and philosophers of nature. With considerable intellectual balance and literary vigour, this book explores the full range of Newton's achievements, both in the mathematics and natural philosophy which laid the foundations of his cosmology and mechanics, and his strenuously reasoned and absorbing analysis of scripture and prophecy, alchemy and apocalypse. Guicciardini is especially keen to put Newton back into the world where he laboured and flourished, a milieu he shows was very different from that of current sciences or of modern religious thought to which Newton's enterprise nevertheless made the most decisive contributions. The book offers a fascinating introduction to the aims and achievements of a towering figure of European intellectual culture.’ – Simon Schaffer, Professor of History of Science, University of Cambridge

Show all

Niccolò Guicciardini teaches history of science at the University of Bergamo, Italy. He has devoted many years to studying Newton’s mathematical thought and its reception, and is the author of Reading the Principia: The Debate on Newton’s Mathematical Methods for Natural Philosophy from 1687 to 1736 (1999) and Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method (2009). He is 2018 recipient of the Francis Bacon Award by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Introduction: Images of Newton
1 From Woolsthorpe to Cambridge, 1642–1665
2 Early Achievements, 1665–1668
3 A Young Professor and His Audience
4 A Maturing Scholar, 1675–1684
5 Natural Philosopher, 1684–1695
6 The Last Years, 1696–1727
photo acknowledgements