Written By: James Gleick

Narrated By: Allan Corduner

Date: April 2005

Duration: 5 hours 46 minutes


James Gleick has long been fascinated by the making of science -- how ideas order visible appearances, how equations can give meaning to molecular and stellar phenomena, how theories can transform what we see. In Chaos, he chronicled the emergence of a new way of looking at dynamic systems; in Genius, he portrayed the wondrous dimensions of Richard Feymnan's mind. Now, in Isaac Newton, he gives us the story of the scientist who, above all others, embodied humanity's quest to unveil the hidden forces that constitute the physical world.

In this original, sweeping, and intimate biography, Gleick moves between a comprehensive historical portrait and a dramatic focus on Newton's significant letters and unpublished notebooks to illuminate the real importance of his work in physics, in optics, and in calculus. He makes us see the old intuitive, alchemical universe out of which Newton's mathematics first arose and shows us how Newton's ideas have altered all forms of understanding from history to philosophy. And he gives us a moving account of the conflicting impulses that pulled at this man's heart: his quiet longings, his rage, his secrecy, the extraordinary subtleties of a personality that were mirrored in the invisible forces he first identified as the building blocks of science. More than biography, more than history, more than science, Isaac Newton tells us how, through the mind of one man, we have come to know our place in the cosmos.

Read by Allan Couruner.


  • Albert

    This is an interesting book that reveals a side of Newton, and, indeed, science of the time, that I have not known about before. Our system of scientific advancement was created: research followed by open publication. The secretive work of alchemists was on the way out. Other interesting threads were the conflicts with Hooke and Liebniz. Both of us listening this time are from technical backgrounds. We were concerned that the mathematical parts would be unsatisfying. While they turned out to be pretty basic, there was enough detail to pique our interest. We may follow up with some more detailed reading. The only shortcoming for us was the extreme volume dynamics of the narrator. We found ourselves adjusting the volume quite a bit.

  • Anonymous

    Only for the truly devoted fan. While very insightful into what shaped Newton's mind (and his petty, paranoid nature), there isn't much drama. If this book were made into a movie it would be one of those movies you were forced to watch in school.

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant. Both the book and the man. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. There was a great feeling of being there. Newton was one of the great minds of all time, and you felt it in the book. A tortured savant that couldn't deal with others. Well done. If you love biographies - this is a must read.

  • David Anthony

    While very well written and an interesting portrait of Newton, this book leaves you wanting to know more than what you're given, particularly about Newton's childhood. However, for those who found the weighty scientific analysis in other inventors'/scientists' biographies (see the new Einstein by Walter Isaacson) overwhelming, this book provides a bit of a relief. Not perfect, but very good nonetheless.

  • Gary Jacobs

    The author is one of the best science writers around these days. I enjoyed his biography of physicist Richard Feynman, and got this one on that basis, as well as "Chaos." The volume did not disappoint. He sets what could be an overly familiar story in its time, bringing new insights as we watch Isaac Newton, quirky, eccentric, exceedingly methodical and brilliant, help invent modern science if not much of modernity. The volume is nontechnical for the general reader, yet elucidates many of Newtonian concepts clearly. I enjoyed the reader's British accent, appropriate for this subject matter. Recommended!

  • Robb Odom

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The Author did a wonderful job of making a story out of, what could have been, a very dry topic. To be sure a technical understanding of math or science is not necessary. In addition, the presenter did a great job and his voice added to my enjoyment.

  • Jeff Payne

    I am definitely not a math guru but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was interesting to get a peek into the past when numbers took on more meaning, the developing of calculus, and finding out about other experiences of Newton's life kept my complete attention. I recommend this book.

  • Andy

    [unabridged] A must read for anyone learning calculus. If you are a student of mathematics, physics, or engineering, you must "read" this book. You will gain a much better understanding of calculus, how it was developed, and how Newton employed it to explain so many of the observed physical properties of our universe. This is not a technical manual requiring a knowledge of calculus to follow along; anyone who has taken high school physics will also enjoy this book. I also recommend this book as an introduction to anyone planning to study quantum mechanics or Einstein's theory of relativity.

  • Randy

    Good book, held my interest. Learned a lot about Newton but did not seem to get tangled up with dates like most history books.

  • Anonymous

    When selecting this book, consider your preferences. If you are looking for a novel or biography, this isn't your book. Isaac was a very introverted man (according to the author) and therefore, did not lend himself to a biographical study. If instead, you are intrigued by the details and science as I am, this was a very good read. You still have the opportunity to learn about Isaac the man however.

  • Scott Sherman

    I enjoyed listening to this book. I have always been fascinated by Isaac Newton and the profound effect he had on science and on the world.

  • Linda Hart (a uni-trained Historian)

    Ah, what might have been. Brilliant flashes of interest and intrigue, but FAR too much mathematical and hard science references. It was almost as if Gleick (an author I very much enjoy reading otherwise) didn't know which way to jump. Based on his other works, I think more historical/human interest would have served the reader better. When tackling Newton, it's best to go one way or another, and twin volumes encompassing the whole of this monumental man and his times would be welcome. That nothwithstanding, this Isaac Newton biography was still an illuminating "read" . . . skillfully read. My ranking, sadly, 3 of 5 stars.

  • Super Commuter

    This was a thorough and well-written biography, but it didn't have any entertainment value. It barely held my interest because of the dry style even though I am interested in the topics covered. The focus is all on the painful details of the science and there isn't enough of the juicy, funny or surprising stories that usually make biographies fun to listen to.

  • DAS

    Fascinating. Contained a lot of information I didn't know. The author anchors his information on the writings of Newton and his explanations of what the writings mean seem to make sense. Gleick places the thoughts expressed by Newton in their historical context and links them to other scientists of the time. A very good book if you want to have a close look at one of the Earth's most brilliant scientists.

  • Andre Weinstock

    Gleick has done a decent job of piecing together a portrait of the eccentric and brilliant Newton based on what scant material survives from the earliest days of published writing. The author, in a very scientific - in fact Newtonian - manner, does not conjecture as to what might have happened or occured in the large blank spots of the written record. This then leaves us only to wonder how Newton's mind functioned and why his genius was so incredibly profound and unique.

  • Jason Thorn

    This book is for those who truely want to know the mind of Newton. But be prepared! If the reader expects to seek enlightenment by learning about the life of the grandfather of Physics, he may be in for a shock. This book is raw in it's representation of the man who all but invented modern Physics, providing an honest view of his personality and perspectives. It is unfortunant that so little background was provided about Newton's influences. Early on, the reader is told how Newton came to grow up, fatherless and abandoned for a time by his mother. However the book progresses too quickly past these subjets and rapidly finds itself focusing on Newtows time at Cambridge. Even then, almost no effort is spent to descibe what his life as a student was like. Little mention is made, aside from the authors speculation, about Newtons influences, and more broad events that may have shaped his perception of the world, or the universe he sought to define. In all, I can only recomend this book to somewone who wants to know Newton, the man, and not the mechanics that he envisioned, nor as an insight into his genius.

  • Anonymous

    I did not even make it through the first CD of this book. Isaac Newton was not made famous because of his suave character or ability to woo Women. He was a math guy and science guy. Of course he was no good at those things. I feel Gleick attacks these issues too much when he should be talking about the theories Newton Produced.

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by James Gleick

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