From one of the best writers on science, a remarkable portrait of Isaac Newton, the man who changed our understanding of the universe, of science and of faith.
Isaac Newton was the chief architect of the modern world. He answered the ancient philosophical riddles of light and motion; he effectively discovered gravity; he salvaged the terms "time", "space", "motion", "place" from the haze of everyday language, standardised them and married them, each to the other, constructing an edifice that made knowledge a thing of substance: quantitative and exact. Creation, Newton demonstrated, unfolds from simple rules, patterns iterated over unlimited distances.
What Newton learned remains the essence of what we know. Newton's laws are our laws. When we speak of momentum, of forces and masses, we are seeing the world as Newtonians. When we seek mathematical laws for economic cycles and human behaviour, we stand on Newton's shoulders. Our very deeming the universe as solvable is his legacy.
This was the achievement of a reclusive professor, recondite theologian and fervent alchemist. A man who feared the light of exposure, shrank from controversy and seldom published his work.
In his daily life he emulated the complex secrecy in which he saw the riddles of the universe encoded. His vision of nature was of its time; he never purged occult, hidden, mystical beliefs. But he pushed open a door that led to a new universe.