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.
I'm a web developer based out of Sacramento, I listen to books while I work, and love audible.
This book was very enlightening. There was so much in it that I didn't know or had never thought about. Since I'm currently taking Calculus II as part of my Computer Science degree, I found this book to be doubly interesting.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
This book captures the mindsets of great men and their contemporaries in a way that makes them believably human, rather than names thrown around in a science textbook. We understand their quirks, their theories and how they viewed the world.
As a parting thought about the book, I have a question about why people today are separating science from religion even though it's clear some of the greatest scientists in history did their research with the intention of understanding God's universe better.
Great food for thought.
What could be more exciting than the intellectual history of the seventeenth century? Galileo, the Newton-Leibniz controversy, universal gravitation etc. The characters in the Royal Society are extremely interesting. There is a lot to like in this book. However, the presentation is often lacking. There is just too much opinion and polemic in the description of the various intellectual endeavors. For instance, the critique of religion as practiced in the seventeenth century is relentless, but some of the core beliefs which come under ridicule are still held by many people now, and are dismissed out of hand as backwards in a way that can only be insulting.
I found the reading too slow, and often punctuated with little chuckles at the wrong time, which is disconcerting.
Much of the same historical material is covered in Neal Stephenson's excellent Baroque Cycle, available in a great audible edition.
I expected a book about the royal society as promised by the summary. What I got was a simplistic history of science and then a long comparison of Newton and Leibniz.
More time spent on more of the members of the Society and less on history of science for beginners
I am still waiting for a non fiction book on the Royal Society and its beginnings that equals Neil Stephensons "Quicksilver"
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.
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.
The book attempts to understand the historical context of a major intellectual change rather than describe scientific innovation and so is more an intellectual history than a history of science itself. Nevertheless it is interesting, particularly the discussions of the strange beliefs that the fathers of modern chemistry and physics held. The member of the royal society did not imagine they were starting the world in the direction it is going today. I find this type of thing fascinating.
The narrator has a good voice, easy to listen to, but is insufferable at times. His narration is overdramatic and pedantic. I agree with the reviewer who writes that Sklar speaks down to the listener. The narrator actually chuckles at several points during the reading, like when he says "nature abhors a vacuum". I found this distracting and annoying, and it took away from an otherwise fun history.
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
I enjoyed this book because I like the topic. It traces the evolution of cosmology from ancient greek times to modern times. Much of the book covers the three most famous scientist of their times. Galileo, Kepler and Newton. It does a great job explaining how the world evolved from a theory of the earth at the center of the universe to the universe as we now know it. The earth centric view was destroyed as soon as Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter. The Earth could no longer be the center of the universe since those moons orbited Jupiter. The book also covers how Newton proved that the planets travel in an elliptical orbit about the sun.
This book is probably not for everyone, but if you like the subject of the history of science it is worth the listen.
I've always been more of a humanities student and never took higher math or much in the way of physics. I didn't expect to get a very approachable introduction to those topics when I picked this book so I was very pleased with how it turned out. Very fascinating read on multiple levels for me!
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