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Isaac Newton was indisputably one of the greatest scientists in history. His achievements in mathematics and physics marked the culmination of the movement that brought modern science into being. Richard Westfall's biography captures in engaging detail both his private life and scientific career, presenting a complex picture of Newton the man, and as scientist, philosopher, theologian, alchemist, public figure, President of the Royal Society, and Warden of the Royal Mint. An abridged version of his magisterial study Never at Rest (Cambridge, 1980), this concise biography makes Westfall's highly acclaimed portrait of Newton newly accessible to general readers.
This richly detailed 1981 biography captures both the personal life and the scientific career of Isaac Newton, presenting a fully rounded picture of Newton the man, the scientist, the philosopher, the theologian, and the public figure. Professor Westfall treats all aspects of Newton's career, but his account centres on a full description of Newton's achievements in science. Thus the core of the work describes the development of the calculus, the experimentation that altered the direction of the science of optics, and especially the investigations in celestial dynamics that led to the law of universal gravitation.
This introduction to the history of science in the seventeenth century examines the so-called 'scientific revolution' in terms of the interplay between two major themes. The Platonic-Pythagorean tradition looked on nature in geometric terms with the conviction that the cosmos was constructed according to the principles of mathematical order, while the mechanical philosophy conceived of nature as a huge machine and sought to explain the hidden mechanisms behind phenomena. Pursuing different goals, these two movements of thought tended to conflict with each other, and more than the obviously mathematical sciences were affected - the influence spread as far as chemistry and the life sciences. As this book demonstrates, the full fruition of the scientific revolution required a resolution of the tension between the two dominant trends.