Isaac Newton: The Scientist Who Changed Everythingby Philip Steele
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
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."
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These two biographies about Joan of Arc and Isaac Newton are prime examples of attractive nonfiction that should particularly appeal to reluctant readers working on school reports. Each book contains illustrations or photos on almost every page, and, more important, the information is carefully divided into digestible portions, such that no one "chapter" extends beyond a two-page spread. A running chronology, containing both milestones in the subject's life as well as relevant historical events, borders the bottom edge of the pages, and call-out boxes define terms or elaborate on events mentioned in the main body of the text. Occasionally Joan of Arc dips a little too far into informality; for instance, the reader is told that when Pierre Cauchon taunted Joan at her trial, she "got him back" by responding in kind. For the most part, however, both books use vocabulary that is neither simplistic nor intimidating, and while the authors' admiration for their subjects is evident, they maintain appropriate objectivity. In Joan of Arc, for example, Wilkinson states matter-of-factly that Joan sincerely believed that she heard voices but notes that the strong religious beliefs of the time meant that more people were inclined to believe her than might be the case today. Similarly Steele describes Isaac Newton's irritable and overly sensitive personality in addition to his scientific genius. Both authors are also careful to note when a particular piece of information cannot be confirmed. The most obvious example is the story of Newton and the now-legendary apple that might have inspired him to investigate the concept of gravity, but the authors alsofrequently state that Joan or Isaac "may have" or "most likely would have" done something based on the living conditions known to exist during the relevant time periods. Overall these biographies, which also include books on Anne Frank, Wofgang Amadeus Mozart, Nelson Mandela, and Mao Zedong, will hopefully show young adults in school and public libraries that research does not always have to be tedious or difficult. Reviewer: Amy Sisson
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)
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