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Drowning in the Danube

J.H. Elliott, 24 March 1994

Marsigli’s Europe 1680-1730 
by John Stoye.
Yale, 356 pp., £29.95, February 1994, 0 300 05542 0
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... he was admitted in person to his fellowship, and had the privilege of being welcomed by Sir Isaac Newton. During his later years he pursued his researches in Italy, Provence and Switzerland, and – obsessed as ever by water – collected materials for another book, a Physical History of the Sea. He turned back, too, to his native Bologna, which he ...

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 ...

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 ...

Bits

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 ...

Mysterian

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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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Happiness 
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 ...

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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... A few belong to both categories; those in the second include Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, 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 their satisfaction that, apart from the common ...

Bransonism

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 ...

Reasons for Being Nice and Having Sex

Andrew Berry: W.D. Hamilton, 6 February 2003

Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W.D. Hamilton. Vol. II: The Evolution of Sex 
by W.D. Hamilton.
Oxford, 872 pp., £50, January 2001, 0 19 850336 9
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... Hamilton salvaged some pride from remembering that the ‘world’s greatest-ever scientist’, Isaac Newton, occasionally found himself addressing ‘ye bare walls’ of a deserted lecture theatre. In spite of Hamilton’s failings as a self-publicist, his work eventually received the recognition it deserved. The catalyst was the publication in 1975 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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