This a fascinating history of science book, but much more. The groundwork leading to Newton's breathtaking achievements or delightfully depicted (for example Kepler's work - but most of what he produced was nonsense!) And why were the dark ages so dark for so long!
It has been decades since college, but having listened to this I have a deeper understanding of what I was trying to learn then in Physics, Calculus and Astronomy. The story quickly moves along, the narration is first rate. I plan on listening to more of this author's work.
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Isaac Newton and the Royal Society (and Leibniz) present a really captivating subject. In terms of the history of ideas, arguments for and against progress, philosophical uncertainty and the like this time period is perfect. However, Dolnick's characterization of the late 17th Century is just that: a characterization. Its presentation is horribly naive and often anachronistic. Dolnick frequently uses unnecessary anachronistic metaphors in order to relate, I presume, to lowest denominator readers when there are plenty of periodic examples that would be commonsensical enough for any reader.
It's hard to say whether Dolnick is doing this because of poor historical research or in order to be more of a pop-history for the sake of higher sales. All that said, I do not think Dolnick is naive or a poor historicist in general, that is another question altogether. What is evident is that he simplifies a time period drastically and with no apparent means. The most disappointing aspect of Dolnick's characterization is that it lacks respects for the reader's intelligence. However, once Dolnick gets into the profound ideas of these figures, the whole book is much more enjoyable. It is apparent he had a deep relationship with their ideas. While I'm not convinced he understands the history of ideas or the gravity (no pun intended) of them, it is apparent his knowledge of science and mathematics is proficient. And he'd probably make a pretty great teacher (especially since he seems like the kind of guy who would go off on some pretty great tangents).
After listening to the book and writing this review, I think it is fair to say that I am just not the audience Dolnick was writing for. I expected a lot more from the historical part of this book and much less from the comical side notes part. But this book was certainly enjoyable even though I did not find it very accurate.
The narration of this book is, overall, pretty great. I have an odd liking for older voices. I doubt I would have given up on this book, but it certainly helped to have Sklar forging forward. He seemed to realize Dolnick's whimsical tone and kept a pretty quick pace. Sklar definitely brought the words to life. Like a grandfather's tale, while I may not have fully agreed with everything I heard, I certainly enjoyed it.
This books seems like a good starting point. It is somewhat superficial. But definitely a nice find for someone that does not know much or anything about this subject.
The audiobook was exciting and informative in Part 1, which dealt with the Royal Society, Astronomers, and scientific discoveries. It lost me in Part 2, which went into too much detail in its coverage of the different mathematic disciplines
The narrator did have the inflection of a teacher explaining things to a kindergarden class. This was tolerable in the first half, but annoying in the second.
This is a great read to give you a new perspective of the history of science and math. I really appreciated the insight into what it was like in the 1600's and how these men came to enlighten all.
This book gave me a perspective on the development of science and rational thinking over the last few millenia, and last few centuries. It is read with interest and thought and humour, and gave researched background into the figures of history that generated the theories we live by. It makes my life richer to have this contextual understanding of how the universe works and how the world of the Royal Society works. Martin Reese, immediate past president, is one of my heroes.
Galileo was quite a character and made me laugh to hear about.
Alan reads with insight and humour.
The book does a very good job of explaining the context of the beginnings of what we call the "Scientific Revolution". Unfortunately, it makes the jump from the Greeks to the Europeans of the 17th Century without even mentioning that many of those later Europeans relied upon Islamic thinkers like Ibn Alhazen.
I am happy that I got this book. It gave an enjoyable account of some of the most influential scientific discoveries in the 17th century. It didn't get too technical, and so was easy to listen to without getting lost.
While I was vaguely familiar with many of the accounts of these discoveries, it was enlightening to hear pieces of journal entries or letters that describe the events first-hand.
The performance in this book is quite good, but the story is weak, especially given the fact that the science is not particularly well explained. While many concepts are touched upon, the true revolutionary nature of the ideas is lost as is the sense of the scope of the discoveries as they are not well explained or demonstrated. It's scientific history without the science and without the science to make the story interesting, it's not a great tale.
on a quest to read Audible's entire nonfiction science section...
Well-written science nonfiction is a treat that I relish and this book delivers in spades. Newton is the book's main focal point but it also spends considerable time detailing the contributions of Galileo, Kepler, Leibniz, Hook, Leeuwenhoek and others. The description of calculus was clear and even, I have to admit, compelling (I have a BA rather than a BS because I refused to take calculus). The religious devotion of these pioneers was surprising and Dolnick does a nice job of pointing out the irony of the effects Newton and Leibniz' work on religion and society.
I had put off purchasing this one because I disliked Alan Sklar's reading of "Before the Dawn" but I really liked his narration with this one. He tends to chuckle from time to time and sound a bit like a bombastic professor but that worked in a way here that it didn't in the other book.
If you have an interest in the history of science, especially the early days, I can heartily recommend this book's pleasing blend of narrative and scientific explanation.
In the 1600s curiosity was looked upon as a sin, trying to unveil the mind of God. Progress was viewed likewise, trying to improve upon the world God had provided. As miserable as their lives were and as horrible as the fate that followed death, people of those days believe "this is the best of all possible worlds." This mindset prevailed for 1,000 years. Fortunately for us, around 1660 there arose a small band of "natural philosophers" who enjoyed experimenting and thinking about the natural world. Isaac Newton, was the genius among them, although his ideas almost didn't get written down, he was so neurotic and anti-social and self-angrandizing. This book's beautifully written and read, very easy to follow. There are a few other books that have changed or enlarged my worldview this much. "How the mind works," by Stephen Pinker, "A short history of nearly everything," by Bill Bryson, and "Longitude," by Dava Sobel come to mind. This book is right up there with them.