The Clockwork Universe is the story of a band of men who lived in a world of dirt and disease but pictured a universe that ran like a perfect machine. A meld of history and science, this book is a group portrait of some of the greatest minds who ever lived as they wrestled with natures most sweeping mysteries. The answers they uncovered still hold the key to how we understand the world.
At the end of the 17th century, an age of religious wars, plague, and the Great Fire of London when most people saw the world as falling apart, these earliest scientists saw a world of perfect order. They declared that, chaotic as it looked, the universe was in fact as intricate and perfectly regulated as a clock. This was the tail end of Shakespeare's century, when the natural and the supernatural still twined around each other. Disease was a punishment ordained by God, astronomy had not yet broken free from astrology, and the sky was filled with omens. It was a time when little was known and everything was new. These brilliant, ambitious, curious men believed in angels, alchemy, and the devil, and they also believed that the universe followed precise, mathematical laws, a contradiction that tormented them and changed the course of history. The Clockwork Universe is the fascinating and compelling story of the bewildered geniuses of the Royal Society, the men who made the modern world.
©2011 Edward Dolnick (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
Featuring Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Leibniz, the author explores the scientific golden age of the seventeenth century. The characters are lively, the science is fascinating, and the subjects diverse: geometry, calculus, physics, optics, and more. An absorbing read for anyone interested in the hard sciences and curious about their development.
I hesitated to buy this one after reading the reviews, so I felt obliged to offer a counter opinion. I thought the book excellent and the narration quite tolerable. While the author centers on the great calculus debate between Newton and Leibniz and tosses in a lot of anecdotal history, the book also functions as a very good primer on the foundations of modern science, treating it as the elaboration and application of mathematics to physical phenomena. The crucial step represented by a mathematics of motion is a central theme. His descriptions of the calculus and the weird conceptual innovation Newton called ???gravity??? are really very good and surprisingly clear in narration without any visual aids. He also paints a vivid picture of the physical and metaphysical worlds of the 17th century, including a welcome insistence on the essential role of religious faith, even mysticism, in the thinking of the early modern scientists. As to the narration, I can see why some people might find it slightly irritating. The reader has a plumy voice that dips into avuncular chuckles at points of irony, which can be a bit annoying. But I found the pace and tone very good for comprehension overall. The lives of Newton and Leibniz make a marvelous story, and unless you are already familiar with them you will probably enjoy this book.
This book is a great introduction to so many of history's most interesting genius's. The major characters are Newton and Leibniz but the author manages to familiarize the reader with a near exhaustive list of scientific greats from throughout history. Don't worry about hearing too much about stuffy intellectual types, these guys are far from boring. I didn't agree with all of the authors perspectives on these great men and the times in which they lived but all and all this is a solid and very informative book about a fascinating and turbulent time in history. The author covers a vast amount of material yet manages not to short change the subject. A light and fun history that manages to convey a large amount of information and leave the reader wanting more. Leaves much of the life, blood, controversies, feuds, and other interesting bits in. Makes you want to read biographies of just about everyone mentioned. The narrator is fantastic.
I found this book to be quite entertaining. I find the people behind the science and the politics to be very interesting. Sklar's narration fit the tone of the book and kept me engaged through some of the more soap opera parts whilst also making the science aspects interesting. A very good read to see a bit behind the major breakthroughs of the science we take for granted today.
Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.
I have not read the print version
It was like a Dickens novel, it put you in the middle of those creative energies
Yes, his performances are always memorable
If possible...it kept my interest from word one.
This book was a lot of fun plus I learned things that I already knew.LOL
This book is full of fascinating history and science. It reads more as a story rather than an historical reference, though. But having a hard copy version would be useful to refer back to for the sheer density of information. The author presents the material in a logical, well-organized manner with an entertaining style. The narrator, however, tended toward monotony now and again. Still, his diction was clear and the recording lacked any true quirky irritations.
This title is extremely entertaining. It covers and links historical figures and their achievements well but above all it’s delivered in an entertaining and often amusing way. Highly recommended to anyone even remotely interested in historical events and discoveries.
The review would not be complete however without mentioning the quality of narration. Alan Sklar has become an instant favourite with me and I’ll be searching out other titles he’s worked on based on this book alone.
I'm afraid the narrator, whose voice is really fantastic, reads 'down' to the listener. I loved Dolnick's text, but Sklar made me feel as if I were sitting on the floor in a circle of third-graders. His tone diminishes the material. If you have the option, buy the hard copy.
Mr Dolnick's book is basically about the scientific revolution which took place around the 17th century. It covers the discoveries of Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Hook, Liebnitz, Newton and others. In an attempt to explain the science and the reasons the discoveries were of importance Mr Dolnick does what the reader would expect - he presents the mathematics and science in the simplest possible terms so that they are understandable to those with no scientific training.
In this he does a credable job and, for the most part, the explanations make sense and are presented at a level that can be understood by those not "expert" in the areas involved. Mr Dolnick also tries to present the history of the discoveries in context with the times so that readers can understand how and why the discoveries were of importance.
Some parts of this book work relatively well. Kepler's discoveries (the 3 Laws) are explained in simple terms, Galileo's work is explained in a way that readers can relate to and in a way that makes their importance to those in everyday life understandable. There is an extended section on infinite numbers and why they presented difficulties to early mathematicians and an even more extended section on the tragic, but inevitable, clash between Newton and Liebnitz. Mr Dolnick even mentions the problems this caused the British during the following years, although I believe he should have spent more time explaining why this was a serious problem for British scientists. Still he does make a stab at the issue.
On the other hand I believe that there are issues with the presentation as well. First, Mr Dolnick seems to have a problem with religion in general and with those who are religious in particular. The first part of the book fairly reeks of religious intolerance and those who are "believers" are sometimes treated as fools. Secondly Mr Dolnick sometimes raises issues that he does not bother to finish. For example, what happened to Kepler's mother?
While the book is not intended to be a scientific treatise on the issues I believe that those familiar with the science and mathematics are probably not going to enjoy entire sections of the book. In his attempt to make the issues understandable to the layman Mr Dolnick often uses terminology that is either incorrect or so "dumbed down" that it is difficult for those who know the subject areas to bear with. For example, no one in the Sciences has used the term "imaginary numbers" since I was in High School many, many years ago. The numbers are now referred to as "complex numbers" since they are not "imaginary" at all. And, in spite of Mr Dolnick's book, mathematicians today would almost universally say that they are involved in the discovery of "eternal truths" and that has not changed since the time of Kepler. Armithmetic is not, and never has been, part of modern mathematics past the 5th or 6th grade in school.
I can only review and evalutate this book in the light I see it. If I were a non-scientist I suppose my review might be different but I am not and hence I find this book "off-putting" in entire sections. While I believe it would be of interest to those without much of a scientific background I believe it is of only very limited interest to those who are trained in the "exact sciences". On the plus side I believe that Alan Sklar's narration is very well done.
This book is certainly a lot of fun for anyone with a passing interest in intellectual history in general, or the turn of the eighteenth century in England in specific. If you're already pretty versed in the beginnings of the Royal Society or the life of Isaac Newton, you probably won't learn very much, but Dolnick's handling of the subject matter is still engaging and makes it feel like you're listening to a story about some old friends. A great aspect of this book is that it pays particular attention to the interpersonal relationships between the great minds of the era. Newton's feuds could fill a book of their own, but this book handles some of the big ones rather neatly.
I would like to point out, however, that the reading is pretty grating. Alan Sklar certainly has a pleasant speaking voice, but his delivery of the material seems almost condescending at times. At several points in the narration, he actually chuckles while delivering some lines, and the result is that he comes across as holding the primary sources in contempt, whether that is actually true or not. Some of the great discoveries of that time have become practically cliché, but in their original context they deserve more respect than this reading gives them.
Still, this book is an enjoyable experience from start to finish. As someone who has researched this particular period fairly extensively, I didn't really learn much from it, but I enjoyed listening. I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the Scientific Revolution, or what kind of man Sir Isaac Newton actually was.
"some really interesting bits, but jumped about"
I am interested in this period in history and this book provided lots of interesting details. However, at times it seemed to jump about a bit and I was not so comfortable with this lack of a strong flowing narrative
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