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David Kaiser: Paul Dirac

26 February 2009
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius 
by Graham Farmelo.
Faber, 539 pp., £22.50, January 2009, 978 0 571 22278 0
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... Society at the almost unheard of age of 27. In July 1932, just shy of his 30th birthday, he was elevated to the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge – once held by the equally precocious IsaacNewton. He shared the 1933 Nobel Prize for Physics with Schrödinger, and remains one of the youngest recipients. Though he was by no means finished as a physicist by this point – he continued to ...
22 April 1993
A History of Cambridge University. Vol. IV: 1870-1990 
by Christopher Brooke.
Cambridge, 652 pp., £50, December 1992, 9780521343503
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... days of Lord Dacre in the Lodge at Peterhouse? Surely space could have been found to praise the leadership Trinity gave to science by using her great wealth to found the Science Park and the IsaacNewton Institute, and make Cambridge a scientific city as well as a university. Brooke replies that he is writing the history of the university not the colleges. Winstanley wrote his history of later ...


Catherine Caufield

18 May 1989
Three Scientists and their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information 
by Robert Wright.
Times, 324 pp., $18.95, April 1988, 0 8129 1328 0
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Coming of Age in the Milky Way 
by Timothy Ferris.
Bodley Head, 495 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 370 31332 1
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Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St John 
by Isaac Newton.
Modus Vivendi, 323 pp., £800
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What do you care what other people think? Further Adventures of a Curious Character 
by Richard Feynman.
Unwin Hyman, 255 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 04 440341 0
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... is a computer, still processing a program that was installed at the beginning of time. Fredkin’s insistence on this point springs from his feisty refusal to follow generations of physicists since Newton who, he says, have described the rules of nature, but ignored the big question: why does nature follow these rules? To Fredkin, it is ‘a form of mysticism’ to believe that ‘things just happen ...


Jackson Lears: On Chomsky

3 May 2017
Why Only Us: Language and Evolution 
by Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky.
MIT, 215 pp., £18.95, February 2016, 978 0 262 03424 1
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Because We Say So 
by Noam Chomsky.
Penguin, 199 pp., £9.99, August 2016, 978 0 241 97248 9
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What Kind of Creatures Are We? 
by Noam Chomsky.
Columbia, 167 pp., £17, January 2016, 978 0 231 17596 8
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Who Rules the World? 
by Noam Chomsky.
Hamish Hamilton, 307 pp., £18.99, May 2016, 978 0 241 18943 6
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Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals 
by Neil Smith and Nicholas Allott.
Cambridge, 461 pp., £18.99, January 2016, 978 1 107 44267 2
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... show the openness of the rationalist to a wider stream of Enlightenment thought, a more capacious conception of mind and cosmos (and the relationship between them) that can be found in thinkers from IsaacNewton and John Locke to Adam Smith and David Hume. What Kind of Creatures Are We? reprints a series of lectures Chomsky delivered at Columbia University, with a lucid foreword by the philosopher ...

Pens and Heads

Blair Worden: Printing and reading

24 August 2000
The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making 
by Adrian Johns.
Chicago, 707 pp., £14.50, May 2000, 0 226 40122 7
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Reading Revolutions: The Politics of Reading in Early Modern England 
by Kevin Sharpe.
Yale, 358 pp., £25, April 2000, 0 300 08152 9
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... superiority but because they had literary patrons or printing-houses or censors on their side. The high point of Johns’s book is his account of the protracted quarrels between, on the one hand, IsaacNewton and Edmond Halley, those grandees of the Royal Society, and on the other the Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, the doyen of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Johns levels the same complaint ...

In the Know

Simon Schaffer

10 November 1994
Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture 
by William Eamon.
Princeton, 490 pp., £38.50, July 1994, 0 691 03402 8
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The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire 
by Pamela Smith.
Princeton, 308 pp., £30, July 1994, 0 691 05691 9
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... moment which saw science’s birth, tracing it to the philosophers of Classical Greece, or celebrating the canonical achievements of 17th-century heroes such as Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Boyle and Newton, or insisting with great plausibility that until at least the early 19th century, the typical institutions and techniques of the natural sciences simply didn’t exist. These different stories depend ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club

16 July 2014
The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club 
by S.P. Rosenbaum, edited by James Haule.
Palgrave, 203 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 137 36035 9
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... ambiguity. When it came to considering historic lives the club members found themselves similarly attracted to fracture, to lives that spanned historic divides and the psychological consequences. Of IsaacNewton, some of whose papers he owned, Keynes wrote that he was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind ...
1 September 1988
Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Secker, 496 pp., £9.95, June 1988, 0 436 28461 8
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The Comforts of Madness 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 128 pp., £9.95, July 1988, 0 09 468480 4
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Sweet Desserts 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Virago, 154 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 9780860688471
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by Theodore Zeldin.
Collins Harvill, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 00 271302 0
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... Henry Ford, who entrusts her with his new gospel (history, however, is still bunk). She is burned at the stake at the local university, and survives to enjoy long philosophical exchanges with IsaacNewton and a Babylonian angel, Colopatiron. Finally, she returns to earth where, like Gulliver, she finds human beings smelly and unpleasant. Other 20th-century authors have rewritten Candide: Shaw in his ...

Grail Trail

C.H. Roberts

4 March 1982
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail 
by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.
Cape, 445 pp., £8.95, January 1982, 0 224 01735 7
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The Foreigner: A Search for the First-Century Jesus 
by Desmond Stewart.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 241 10686 9
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Satan: The Early Christian Tradition 
by Jeffrey Burton Russell.
Cornell, 258 pp., £14, November 1981, 0 8014 1267 6
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... the Merovingian kings) or men, often famous, whose interest in heterodoxy or the occult is well-known. A few belong to both categories; those in the second include Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Boyle, IsaacNewton, Victor Hugo; others, however, are nonentities. The temptation to dismiss the list out of hand is, as the authors agree, almost irresistible. They have, however, succeeded in establishing to ...
25 June 1987
Past and Present in Art and Taste: Selected Essays 
by Francis Haskell.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, March 1987, 0 300 03607 8
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... contested by another. Haskell’s own account of style as non-political seems to me as political as his claim that ‘we’ think what he thinks. Other essays in this book discuss representations of IsaacNewton; Gibbon’s interest in art and his influence on art history; the representation of historical events, of the old masters and of sad clowns in 19th-century painting; Doré’s images of London ...


Paul Davis: Networking in 18th-century London

17 March 2005
Aaron Hill: The Muses’ Projector 1685-1750 
by Christine Gerrard.
Oxford, 267 pp., £50, August 2003, 0 19 818388 7
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... To a Lady who put herself into a bad way, by taking Spirit of Nitre, by Spoonfuls, instead of a few Drops’ for Gay or Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; and ‘The Motto on Pug’s Collar’, ‘On Sir IsaacNewton’ (‘O’er nature’s laws, God cast the veil of night,/Out blaz’d a Newton’s soul – and all was light’) and even ‘To Mr Pope’ (‘The glow-worm scribblers of a feeble age,/Pale ...

Are you having fun today?

Lorraine Daston: Serendipidity

23 September 2004
The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity: A Study in Sociological Semantics and the Sociology of Science 
by Robert Merton and Elinor Barber.
Princeton, 313 pp., £18.95, February 2004, 0 691 11754 3
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... of dress rehearsal for a book Merton did publish, the erudite and elegant On the Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript (1965), which followed the zigzag fortunes of a quotation made famous by IsaacNewton (‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants’). This may well be true, but it hardly explains Merton’s reluctance to publish an earlier manuscript in the same ...

Smuggled in a Warming Pan

Stephen Sedley: The Glorious Revolution

23 September 2015
The Glorious Revolution and the Continuity of Law 
by Richard Kay.
Catholic University of America, 277 pp., £45, December 2014, 978 0 8132 2687 3
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...  having withdrawn himself out of this kingdom, hath abdicated the government, and that the throne is thereby vacant.’ It offered the vacant throne to William and Mary. What if James returned? IsaacNewton consulted Robert Sawyer, the distinguished lawyer who, with him, represented Cambridge University in the Convention, and received the reassuring advice that to oppose a de facto king, even if ...

Dispersed and Distracted

Jonathan Rée: Leibniz

25 June 2009
Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography 
by Maria Rosa Antognazza.
Cambridge, 623 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 0 521 80619 0
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... of a new science of dynamics, based on conservation of ‘force’ (mv2) rather than ‘quantity of motion’ (mv); and afterwards he constructed a telling critique of the absolutist metaphysics of IsaacNewton, arguing that space and time had no reality of their own, but could be resolved into inherent properties of the objects that are said to occupy them. Newton took offence at these comments, and ...

Not Dead Yet

Anthony Grafton: Latin

8 January 2015
Latin: Story of a World Language 
by Jürgen Leonhardt, translated by Kenneth Kronenberg.
Harvard, 352 pp., £22.95, November 2013, 978 0 674 05807 1
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... by clouds. Still, we considered it certain that the moon did not block off all of the sun’s light, as Halley had predicted.’ Four days later, attending a meeting of the Royal Society, Logan heard IsaacNewton ask Halley to discuss the eclipse. Logan, who thought that Halley seemed quite happy to ‘conceal his error’ by invoking the cloud cover, was sure that Whiston’s work was superior, and ...

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