Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Newton and the Counterfeiter, the Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist: By thomas Levenson



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.


What do you think about when you think of Sir Isaac Newton?

Most people would only be able to say he discovered gravity.

And yet the life of Sir Isaac Newton encompassed so much more than that. He invented calculus, the silver standard, and prosecuted the most notorious counterfeiter in English history.

And it is through Thomas Levenson’s Newton and the Counterfeiter, the Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist that we are introduced to this multifaceted life of Isaac Newton.

Newton and the Counterfeiter, the Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist is a brilliant biography of Sir Isaac Newton. Readable and enjoyable, Levenson introduces us to the genius, Isaac Newton, and makes him a flesh and blood character rather than the bland name we learned in history books. Levenson’s love of Newton is apparent as Levenson makes the reader experience the excitement and importance of Newton’s discoveries and shows how Newton literally changed the world. At the same time, Levenson takes the reader on a tour of seventeenth century England, including the criminal element of that time. At the end of the story the reader has learned about alchemy, economics, prison systems, and the details of counterfeiting in Newton’s day, all in a page turning enjoyable read.

One of my only qualms with the book in fact was that it was severely misrepresented. From reading the back cover and other information on Newton and the Counterfeiter it was marketed as a mystery novel, and an intricate one at that, but after reading it, Newton and the Counterfeiter has proven to be almost anything but. It showed intricate and interesting information about Newton, his life, his experiments, but when it came to any aspects dealing with the mystery part of the book, it was slow, repetitious, and lacking on any mysterious element. In fact if one thing is to be said about Newton and the Counterfeiter it is that it’s a wonderful biography, but only a relatively mediocre mystery.


7 out of 10

Publisher: Mariner Books

Published: April 12, 2010

Price: $14.95

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