Genius or Madman?: Sir Isaac Newton

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Michael Chabin
Isaac Newton is considered among the three greatest mathematicians of all time, yet there is not a single equation in this book. He invented the field of optics and put physics on a mathematical foundation, but the optics described are vague and the physics trivial. England fought its civil war during the first nine years of his life. It is not mentioned. He was a member of Parliament. That is not mentioned either, nor his role as Master of the Mint (for which his knighthood was bestowed) when he disguised himself as a working man and investigated suspected counterfeiters so vigorously he was made a justice of the peace and won ten convictions. These omissions are not due to a lack of space. Of the thirty-six pages in the book, only nineteen have anything to do with Isaac Newton. There is an illustration of a disheveled Newton drinking from a test tube of what is apparently mercury while onlookers look on disapprovingly. Of course he tasted mercury. It was a common component of medicines well into the 20th century. It is also true that exposure to the metal can cause brain damage. But there is no evidence to suggest that Newton's "breakdown" of 1693 was related to anything he ate or drank and to my knowledge no qualified person has ever implied that he was, in any sense, a "madman" as the title here does. The claim that "he invented many scientific terms, such as mass, gravity, and force" is patently wrong. Mass has a root in Old French, gravity comes from the Latin, gravitas, and force has the same Latin root as the word fortification. Even the illustrations contain errors—his grandmother's dress on page ten would not be in fashion for another 200 years. Reviewer: Michael Chabin
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780531188408
  • Publisher: Scholastic Library Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Series: Shockwave: Life Stories Series
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 8 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Table of Contents

High-Powered Words     4
Get on the Wavelength     6
No Family Favorite     8
School Daze     10
A Farming Failure     12
Cambridge Blues     14
A True Genius     16
What Newton Knew     18
The Philosopher's Stone     20
Newton's Rivals     22
Breakdown     24
Another Genius     26
Remarkable Minds     28
Aftershocks     30
Glossary     32
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