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 30 years and made his earth-shattering discoveries, and moved to London to take up the post of Warden of His Majestys 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 chase was on. This astonishing tale of Isaac Newton's journey from Cambridge's ivory tower to London's underworld will appeal to fans of The Professor and the Madman.
©2009 Thomas Levenson; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"Newton and the Counterfeiter humanizes a legend, transforming him into a Sherlock Holmes in pursuit of his own private Moriarity." (The Washington Post)
I couldn't stop listening to this great biography. By putting such people as Locke and Halley into context, making the science (mostly) understandable, and discovering that Newton was one of the first great English detectives, makes this a must listen. The narrator does a fantastic job.
The title of the book had me expecting a Sherlock Holmes vs Moriarty type of story featuring two brilliant antagonists. However, I was dissapointed to find that the story was more Javert vs Valjean than Holmes vs Moriarty.
First, a good third of the book provides a review of Newton's personal life and very brief mention of his scientific accomplishments. If you are unfamiliar with the life of Newton, you will find this interesting. If you are familiar with his story, you will find very little new information.
The title leads you to expect a story where Newton, as the Warden of the Treasury, is pitted against a counterfeiter. Although this is generally true, it is not the story of the Newton's great intelligence against a criminal mastermind. Newton used his position, to establish a network of informants and he used the law to convict a counterfeiter, Chaloner (a somewhat successful counterfeiter of coins). Chaloner was an agressive and brazen crminal, but hardly in Newton's intellectual class. The method of capture and his conviction was very 'ordinary' in nature.
Newton did not relish his role as a policeman but was compelled to carry out this aspect of his Warden's job. He did use his skills of thoroughness and logic to catch and convict but was hardly otherwise challenged.
There are better books about Newton and the 'detective' portion of the story was disappointing.
The core of the biography on Newton and his work with the mint is quite interesting as is the general survey of his life. Just wish it had been edited down a bit as the narrative drags in place. Still on the whole a good listen.
Equal parts of science and cops & robbers.
Newton of course. He is as intense as a bureaucrat as he was a philosopher.
This was my first.
No -- but it was quite riveting.
I have been fascinated by Newton ever since I was a kid. This book made me realize that he spent but a fraction of his life doing what we best know him for. If alchemy hadn't interested him as much as it did, and if the mint hadn't taken up as much of his time as it did, one can only wonder what other amazing things he would have accomplished.
This book is about Newton, but it is also about the world around Newton--it is about Newton's London, which is a topic as interesting as Newton himself.
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