Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Isaac Newton

By Mitch Stokes, 181 pages, Thomas Nelson.

Mitch Stokes builds a personal picture of Newton, showing how the great scientist went about formulating his discoveries. He emphasizes how this scientific outlook served Newton's deeply religious outlook.

While Newton spent far more of his energy on theology and biblical studies than on anything else, his mathematical discoveries changed the course of European and world history, influencing the Enlightenment's faith in reason and progress. Newton's calculus, among other of his advances, gave scientists the tools to develop their understanding of the basic laws of nature, such as the orbits of planets and the force of gravity.

Despite his tenure at Cambridge, his deep faith, and his love for solitude and study, Newton did not back down from the challenges. He defended his claims to first discovery against rival or jealous claimants, and took up the occasional scientific competition, though such controversies rankled him.

Stokes covers his career as Master of the Mint and other duties, and how he contributed to the coinage system, as well as to the development of the Royal Society, which under his leadership became better organized and more productive.

Stoke's own training in mechanical engineering and philosophy gives him the skill to explain clearly some of the scientific and mathematical intricacies found in the Principia and other writings of Newton.
The author also discusses clearly how science was developing out of its alchemical basis into something more focused on direct observation and measurement, and no longer on grand metaphysical discussions of why these things happened.

Even with this, Stokes carefully reminds the reader that Newton did forever remain deeply committed to Scripture and to God.

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