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A x B ≠ B x A

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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... elevated to the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge – once held by the equally precocious Isaac Newton. 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 produce important, intriguing work in quantum theory ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club, 17 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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... to fracture, to lives that spanned historic divides and the psychological consequences. Of Isaac Newton, 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 which looked out on the visible and intellectual world ...


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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... 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 because they happen.’ Positing God as the ‘Great ...

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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... high point of Johns’s book is his account of the protracted quarrels between, on the one hand, Isaac Newton 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 against historians of science as against ...


Jackson Lears: On Chomsky, 4 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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... of mind and cosmos (and the relationship between them) that can be found in thinkers from Isaac Newton 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 Akeel Bilgrami. The second lecture, ‘What Can We ...

It leads to everything

Patricia Fara: Heat and Force, 23 September 2021

Einstein’s Fridge: The Science of Fire, Ice and the Universe 
by Paul Sen.
William Collins, 305 pp., £20, April, 978 0 00 826279 2
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... who were disparaged for working with their hands and seeking commercial gain. Wordsworth idealised Isaac Newton as a ‘Mind forever/Voyaging thro’ strange seas of Thought, alone’, but James Watt received less reverent treatment. Although steam engines generated much of the nation’s wealth and international power, when a statue of Watt was planned ...

Eye Candy

Julian Bell: Colour, 19 July 2007

Colour in Art 
by John Gage.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £9.95, February 2007, 978 0 500 20394 1
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... by the text Goethe wanted to undermine, the authoritative Opticks, published a century before by Isaac Newton. Did either have an effect on painting? It’s true that the elderly Turner read Goethe with critical sympathy, and Gage also shows that Newton’s spectrum features here and there in 18th-century ...

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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... 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 on widely divergent versions of what distinguishes the ...

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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... as Halley had predicted.’ Four days later, attending a meeting of the Royal Society, Logan heard Isaac Newton 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 that totality had not been reached while he was in ...

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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... motion’ (mv); and afterwards he constructed a telling critique of the absolutist metaphysics of Isaac Newton, 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 became incensed ...


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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... Drops’ for Gay or Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; and ‘The Motto on Pug’s Collar’, ‘On Sir Isaac Newton’ (‘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 twinklers of an ...

Smuggled in a Warming Pan

Stephen Sedley: The Glorious Revolution, 24 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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... is thereby vacant.’ It offered the vacant throne to William and Mary. What if James returned? Isaac Newton 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 on behalf of a lawful king, was treason. But ...

Flights from the Asylum

John Sutherland, 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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... at the stake at the local university, and survives to enjoy long philosophical exchanges with Isaac Newton 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 Black Girl in Search of God, Nathanael West in ...

What we think about painting

John Barrell, 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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... his claim that ‘we’ think what he thinks. Other essays in this book discuss representations of Isaac Newton; 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; and the 19th-century Turkish collector Khalil ...

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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... A Shandean Postscript (1965), which followed the zigzag fortunes of a quotation made famous by Isaac Newton (‘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 vein. In 2002, the unrevised manuscript finally made it ...

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