The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World - Edward Dolnick (2011)


Sources for quotations and for assertions that might prove elusive can be found below. To keep these notes in bounds, I have not documented facts that can be readily checked in standard sources. Publication information is provided in the notes only for those sources not listed in the bibliography.


The universe is but a watch: Bernard de Fontenelle, Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds (London, 1803), p. 10.


xv The murder rate: Manuel Eisner, “Modernization, Self-Control, and Lethal Violence. The Long-Term Dynamics of European Homicide Rates in Theoretical Perspective,” British Journal of Criminology 41, no. 4 (2001).

xv “a sooty Crust or Furr”: Barbara Freese, CoalA Human History (New York: Penguin, 2004), p. 35, quoting John Evelyn.

xv “a stinkingmuddyfilth-bespattered”: J. H. Plumb, The First Four Georges (London: Fontana, 1981), p. 17.

xvi The same barges: Emily Cockayne, HubbubFilthNoiseand Stench in England, p. 93.

xvi When Shakespeare and his fellow: Gregory Clark, A Farewell to AlmsA Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), p. 107.

xvi the palace at Versailles: Katherine Ashenburg, The Dirt on Clean, p. 116.

xvifn The historian Jules Michelet: Ashenburg, The Dirt on Clean, p. 12. Ashenburg notes that Michelet exaggerated. She puts the correct figure at four centuries.

xvii “Men expected the sun”: Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 5.


skeletally thin Robert Boyle: Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth. Shapin devotes a fascinating chapter to the riddle of “Who Was Robert Boyle?”

Boyle maintained three: Lisa Jardine, On a Grander Scale, p. 194.

“low of stature”: Leo Hollis, London Rising, p. 48.

a “miracle of youth”: Jardine, On a Grander Scale, p. 236, quoting John Evelyn.

“the most fearful”: John Maynard Keynes, “Newton, the Man,” p. 278, quoting the Cambridge mathematician William Whiston.


“Any cold might be”: Peter Earle, The Making of the English Middle ClassBusinessSociety and Family Life in London 1660–1730 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p. 302.

life expectancy was only: Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, p. 5.

London was so disease-ridden: A. Lloyd Moote and Dorothy Moote, The Great Plague, p. 26.

“puppy boiled up”: Anna Beer, Milton, p. 386.

“I have had the misfortune”: Earle, The Making of the English Middle Class, p. 302.

When Charles II suffered: T. B. Macaulay, History of England, ch. 4, “James the Second,” available at I drew details from Macaulay’s History; Antonia Fraser’s Royal Charles, p. 446; and an account by the king’s chief physician, Sir Charles Scarburgh, at

“For what is the cause”: Adam Nicolson, God’s Secretaries (New York: Harper, 2005), p. 25.

10 “People lived in continual terror”: Morris Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture, p. 235.

11 “Those are my best days”: Eugen Weber, Apocalypses, p. 100.

12 “Threatening my father and mother”: Richard Westfall includes the entire list in his “Writing and the State of Newton’s Conscience.”

12 writer and theologian Isaac Watts: Roy Porter, The Creation of the Modern World, p. 157.


13 “The trumpet would sound”: Perry Miller, “The End of the World,” p. 171.

14 “Books on the Second Coming”: Frank Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 129.

14fn Christopher Wren’s father: Adrian Tinniswood, His Invention So FertileA Life of Christopher Wren, p. 17.

14 “great apostasy”: Richard Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 321.

15 “What shall be the sign”: Matthew 24:3, King James Bible.

15 “sexual musical chairs”: Lawrence Stone, The FamilySexand Marriage, p. 328.

16 “So horrible was it”David Levy’s Guide to Observing and Discovering Comets (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 9, quoting Ambroise Pare.

16 “The thick smoke”: Tinniswood, His Invention So Fertile, p. 10, quoting Andreas Celichius.

17 “a Coffin,” floating: Ibid., p. 11.

17 “this comet portends pestiferous”: Moote and Moote, The Great Plague, p. 20.

17 clouds of flies: J. Fitzgerald Molloy, Royalty Restored (London: Downey, 1897), p. 167.

17 “A deformed monster”: Neil Hanson, The Great Fire of London, p. 28.

18 Robert Boylerenowned today: Westfall, Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England, p. 124. The historian Frank Manuel discusses Boyle’s belief in the imminence of the apocalypse in Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 129.

18 “The fourth beast [in the book of Revelation]”: Isaac Newton, Observations upon the Prophecies of Danieland the Apocalypse of St. John, part 1, ch. 4, “Of the vision of the four Beasts.” This posthumous work by Newton can be found, along with seemingly everything else Newton-related, at the indispensable Newton Project website, This essay is at


20 “like cheese between layers”: Norman Cantor, In the Wake of the Plague, p. 8.

20 “Oh happy posterity”: Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror (New York: Ballantine, 1978), p. 99.

21 “Great fears of the sicknesse”: Samuel Pepys’s diary entry for April 30, 1665, available at

22 “A nimble executioner”: Margaret Healy, “Defoe’s Journal and the English Plague Writing Tradition,” quoting the seventeenth-century pamphleteer Thomas Dekker.

22 “the surest Signes”: This quote and the description of plague symptoms in the next several sentences come from Richelle Munkhoff, “Searchers of the Dead: Authority, Marginality, and the Interpretation of Plague in England, 1574–1665,” Gender and History 11, no. 1 (April 1999).

23 despised old women called “searchers”: Ibid.

24 “Death was the sure midwife”: Nathaniel Hodge, Loimolgia, or An Historical Account of the Plague in London in 1665. See

24 “Poor Will that used to sell”: Pepys’s diary, August 8, 1665.


25 “Multitude of Rogues”: Roger Lund, “Infectious Wit: Metaphor, Atheism, and the Plague in Eighteenth-Century London,” Literature and Medicine 22, no. 1 (Spring 2003), p. 51.

25 kill “all their dogs”: Moote and Moote, The Great Plague, p. 177.

26 “when we have purged”: Tinniswood, His Invention So Fertile, p. 115, quoting Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society.

26 “Little noise heard day or night”: Letter written September 4, 1664, by Pepys to Lady Carteret, in Correspondence of Samuel Pepys, vol. 5, p. 286. See

27 “A just God now visits”: John Kelly, The Great Mortality, p. xv.

27 “But Lordhow empty”: Pepys’s diary, October 16, 1665.

28 Builders would one day: Raymond Williamson, “The Plague in Cambridge,” Medical History 1, no. 1 (January 1957), p. 51.


29 Iron bars in prison cells: Hanson, The Great Fire of London, p. 165, quoting John Evelyn.

30 what Robert Boyle called: Moote and Moote, The Great Plague, p. 69.

30 “Pish!” he said: Christopher Hibbert, London (London: Penguin, 1977), p. 67, and Hanson, The Great Fire of London, p. 49.

31 Even on the opposite sides: G. M. Trevelyan, English Social History (New York: Penguin, 1967), p. 305.

32 Slung over his shoulder: Antonia Fraser, Royal Charles, p. 245.

32 “A horrid noise the flames made”: Pepys’s diary, September 2, 1666.

32 Stones from church walls exploded: Hollis, London Rising, p. 121.

32 “God grant mine eyes”: John Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn, vol. 2, p. 12. This is from Evelyn’s diary entry for September 3, 1666, available at http./–fire.php.

33 People wandered in search: Hollis, London Rising, p. 122.

33 “The ground was so hot”: Hanson, The Great Fire of London, p. 163.

33 “Now nettles are growing”: Ibid., p. xv, quoting from a pamphlet by Thomas Vincent, God’s Terrible Voice in the City.


35 God had fashioned the best: Philosophers still debate precisely how Leibniz reconciled his belief that God had created the best possible world with his (apparent) belief in a day of judgment. One notion is that divine punishment was a feature of even the best possible world, because harmony required both that virtue be rewarded and sin punished.

36 Newton and many of his peers: J. E. McGuire and P. M. Rattansi, “Newton and the ‘Pipes of Pan,’ ” p. 135. See also Piyo Rattansi, “Newton and the Wisdom of the Ancients,” in John Fauvel et al., eds., Let Newton Be!, p. 187; Force and Popkin, Newton and Religion, p. xvi; Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, p. 74.

37 By far the most important: The only challenges to the mainstream view came from the much-feared, much-reviled Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza.

37 “All disorder,” wrote Alexander Pope: Pope, “An Essay on Man.”

37fn “this continued sterility”: Jane Dunn, Elizabeth and Mary (New York: Vintage, 2005), p. 17.

38 “too paganish a word”: Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, p. 79.

38 The very plants in the garden: Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature1150–1750, p. 296, quoting Walter Charleton, The Darkness of Atheism Dispelled by the Light of Nature.

38 “People rarely thought of themselves”: Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, p. 24.

38 Atheism was literally unthinkable: People called their enemies “atheists,” but the charge had to do with behaving badly—acting in ways that offended God—rather than with denying God’s existence. Atheist was a catch-all slur directed at the immoral and self-indulgent.

38 Even Blaise Pascal: Arthur Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being, p.153.

40 Plato proposed that a free man: Morris Kline, MathematicsThe Loss of Certainty, p. 22. See Plato’s Laws, book 11. “He who in any way shares in the illiberality of retail trades may be indicted for dishonouring his race by any one who likes . . . and if he appear to throw dirt upon his father’s house by an unworthy occupation, let him be imprisoned for a year and abstain from that sort of thing; and if he repeat the offence, for two years; and every time that he is convicted let the length of his imprisonment be doubled.” See

41 “It is ye perfection”: Richard Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 327.


42 “decipher the page and chapter”: John Carey, John Donne, p. 128.

42 the mysteries of multiplication: Pepys’s diary, July 4, 1662.

43 a mathematics of change: Ernst Cassirer, “Newton and Leibniz,” p.381. See also Karen Armstrong, A History of God, p. 35.

44 “the most truly revolutionary”: I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science, p. 90.

44 a widownot yet thirty: Hannah Newton’s birth date is unknown. The Newton biographer Frank Manuel suggests that she was probably around thirty when she married for the second time, three years after Isaac’s birth. See Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 24.

45 “When one . . . compares”: Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 12.

45 Frederick the Great declared: Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers, p. 414.

46 “I invariably took”: Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 43.

46 His favorite wedding gift: Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945), p. 582.

46 slept in his clothes: Gale Christianson, Isaac Newton, p. 65.

46 seventeen portraits: Peter Ackroyd, Newton, p. 98.

46 so much time working with mercury: Milo Keynes, “The Personality of Isaac Newton,” p. 27.

46 “It’s so rare,” the Duchess: Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 12.

47 “a Machine for walking on water: The drawing comes from a 1637 text by Daniel Schwenter, a German mathematician and inventor, titled Deliciae physico-mathematicae. Leibniz witnessed (and was much impressed by) a similar demonstration several decades later.

47 “To remain fixed in one place”: Ibid., p. 53.

47 walk on water: Philip Wiener, “Leibniz’s Project,” p. 234.

48 “his cat grew very fat”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 103.

48 “His peculiar gift”: John Maynard Keynes, “Newton, the Man,” p. 278.

49 “I took a bodkin”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 94.


50 “weapon salve”: Liza Picard, Restoration London, p. 78.

50 “a living chameleon”: Charles Richard Weld, History of the Royal Society (London: John W. Parker, 1848), v. 1, p. 114.

51 The spiderunfazed: Ibid., p. 113.

51 Newton’s paper followed: Robert Crease, The Prism and the Pendulum, p. 72.

51 Visitors ogled such marvels: Christopher Hibbert, London, p. 100.

51 the best cure for cataracts: Stone, The FamilySexand Marriage, p. 65.

52 a “flying chariot”: Marjorie Nicolson and Nora Mohler, “Swift’s ‘Flying Island' in the Voyage to Laputa, ” p. 422.

52 Since reliable men vouched: John Henry, “Occult Qualities and the Experimental Philosophy,” p. 359. The highly regarded member of the Royal Society was Joseph Glanvill.

52 the seas contained mermaids: John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, book 3, ch. 6, “Of the Names of Substances” (London: Thomas Tegg, 1841), p. 315.

52 an ancient National Enquirer: Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 231.

53 The “Tyburn tree”: The gallows stood near what is now Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

53 “All the Wayfrom Newgate to Tyburn”: Simon Devereaux, “Recasting the Theater of Execution,” Past & Present 202, no. 1 (February 2009).

53 a hand’s “death sweat”: Hanson, The Great Fire of London, p. 216, and Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, p. 204.

54 the corpse “identified”: Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 241.

54 painstakingly dissected one witch’s: Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, p. 644.

55 the “philosopher’s stone”: Christianson, Isaac Newton, p. 55.

55 some half million words: Rattansi, “Newton and the Wisdom of the Ancients,” p. 193.

55 Leibniz’s only fear: Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 48.

55 “Whatever his aim”: Christianson, Isaac Newton, p. 55.

55 He never spoke of: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 298.

55 “the Green Lion”: William Newman, Indiana University historian of science, speaking on PBS in a Nova program, Newton’s Dark Secrets, broadcast November 15, 2005.

56 “Just as the world was created”: Jan Golinski, “The Secret Life of an Alchemist,” in Let Newton Be!, p. 160.

56 Keynes purchased a trove: For an excellent, detailed history of Newton’s papers, see

56 “the last of the Babylonians”: John Maynard Keynes, “Newton, the Man,” p. 277.


58 New arrivals found places: Tinniswood, His Invention So Fertile, p. 79.

59 “the expansive forces”: Marjorie Nicolson and Nora Mohler, “The Scientific Background of Swift’s Voyage to Laputa,” in Nicolson, Science and Imagination, p. 328.

59 “We put in a snake”: Lisa Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits, p. 114.

60 “A man thrusting in his arm”: Lisa Jardine, The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, p. 105. Jardine writes that the unnamed showman with his arm in the pump was “almost certainly Hooke.”

60 one Arthur Coga: Weld, History of the Royal Society, vol. 1, p. 220.

60 a perfect subject: I owe this insight to Steven Shapin, “The House of Experiment in Seventeenth-Century England,” p. 376.

61 “to be the Author of new things”: Boorstin, The Discoverers, p. 409, quoting Thomas Sprat, History of the Royal Society, (London: 1734), p. 322.

62 “old wood to burn”: Cohen, Revolution in Science, p. 87.

62 “not to discover the new”: Boorstin, The Discoverers, p. 409.

62 In the fourteenth century Oxford: John Barrow, Pi in the Sky (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 205.

63 “the hallmark of the narrow-minded”: Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 61.

63 “For God is certainly called”: Ibid., p. 39.

63 The “lust to find out”: William Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 60.

63 “what the Lord keeps secret”: Ecclesiastes 3:22–23, quoted in Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 60.

64 “If the wisest men”: Westfall, Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England, p. 22.

64 How could anyone draw: Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, p. 82.

64 “absorbingclassifyingand preserving”: Allan Chapman, England’s LeonardoRobert Hooke and the Seventeenth-Century Scientific Revolution, p. 40.

65fn Bacon’s zeal for experimentation: John Aubrey, Brief Lives (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell, 1982), entry for “Francis Bacon.”

65 Nature must be “put to the torture”: Ibid., p. 40.

65 dizzy and temporarily deaf: Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits, p. 56.


66 “I swear to you by God’s”: David Berlinski, Infinite Ascent, p. 66.

67 “like torchesthat in the lighting”: Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 330.

68 “I’ve known since yesterday”: Simon Singh, Big Bang (New York: Harper, 2004), p. 302. Richard Feynman tells the story in its classic, romantic form in his Feynman Lectures on Physics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1963), pp. 3–7, almost as soon as he begins.

68 For decades Hooke argued: Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 347.

68 “Nothing considerable in that kind”: Ibid., p. 347.

68 “Do not throw your pearls”: Paolo Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science, p. 18.

69fn The historian Paolo Rossi: Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science, p. 15.

70 “to improve the knowledge”: Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 348.

70 “not by a glorious pomp”: Ibid., p. 25, quoting Sprat, History of the Royal Society, pp. 62–63.

70 “a closenakednatural way”: Sprat, History of the Royal Society, p. 113.

71 “All that I mean”: Carey, John Donne, p. 58.


72 “If you would like”: Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science, p. 24.

73 “glacial remoteness”: The modern physicist is Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar; the remark comes from a talk he gave in April 1975 at the University of Chicago, titled “Shakespeare, Newton, and Beethoven, or Patterns of Creativity,” available at

73 Samuel Johnson’s remark: James Boswell, Life of Johnson (London: Henry Frowde, 1904), vol. 2, p. 566.

73fn The esteemed eighteenth-century: Laplace’s despairing admirer was Nathaniel Bowditch, quoted in Dirk Struik, A Concise History of Mathematics, p. 135.

73 “baited by little Smatterers”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 459.

74 “the first time that a major”: Merton, On the Shoulders of Giants, p. 11, quoting I. Bernard Cohen, Franklin and Newton.

75 Hooke denounced his enemies: Steven Shapin, “Rough Trade,” London Review of Books, March 6, 2003, reviewing The Man Who Knew Too MuchThe Strange and Inventive Life of Robert Hooke, by Stephen Inwood.

75 Newton’s aim was evidently: Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 145, and Mordechai Feingold, The Newtonian Moment, pp. 23–24.


76 dissections had been performed: Terence Hawkes, London Review of Books, December 11, 1997, reviewing Issues of DeathMortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy, by Michael Neill.

76 “the culture’s preference”: Ibid.

77 the Quaker James Nayler: Beer, Milton, p. 301.

77 a section titled “Excursions”: Picard, Restoration London. Pepys certainly thought of executions in this casual way. On October 13, 1660, he found himself with some unexpected free time. “I went out to Charing Cross,” Pepys wrote in his diary, “to see Major-general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy.” Within a sentence or two, Pepys went on to report that he’d eaten oysters for dinner.

77 “A man sentenced to this terrible”: Picard, Restoration London, p. 211.

77 To preserve severed heads: Beer, Milton, p. 302.

78 traitors’ heads impaled on spikes: The account of London Bridge (and the reference to Thomas More) comes from Picard, Restoration London, p. 23. See also Aubrey, Brief Lives, “Sir Thomas More,” and Paul Hentzner, Travels in England During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, available at

79 “Whatever others think”: Pepys’s diary entry for February 17, 1663.

79 Newton veered toward vegetarianism: Steven Shapin, “Vegetable Love,” New Yorker, January 22, 2007, reviewing The Bloodless RevolutionA Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times, by Tristram Stuart.

80 “The result was a melody”: Thomas Hankins and Robert Silverman, Instruments and the Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), pp. 73, 247.

80 “that traditional nursery rhymes portray”: Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, p. 147.

80 With a dog tied: Tinniswood, His Invention So Fertile, p. 1.

80 Boyle subjected his pet setter: Ibid., p. 34.

80fn The word disease: Moote and Moote, The Great Plague, p. 141.

81 Boyle wrote a paper: Robert Boyle, “Trial proposed to be made for the Improvement of the Experiment of Transfusing Blood out of one Live Animal into Another,” Philosophical Transactions, February 11, 1666, available at

81 “a foreign Ambassador”: The ambassador intended to test the effects of a substance called Crocus metallorum, sometimes used as a medicine to induce vomiting.

81 The servant spoiled: Tinniswood, His Invention So Fertile, p. 37.

82 “The first died upon the place”: Pepys’s diary, November 14 and 16, 1666.


83 he set up a borrowed telescope: Claire Tomalin, Samuel Pepys, p. 248.

83 he raced out to buy a microscope: Pepys’s diary, August 13, 1664.

83 he struggled through Boyle’s: Pepys’s diary, June 4, 1667.

83 “a most excellent book”: Pepys’s diary, June 10, 1667.

83fn Like James Thurber: Thurber described his attempts to master the microscope in My Life and Hard Times.

84 his “jesters”: Michael Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, p. 131. See also Pepys’s diary, February 1, 1664.

84 “Ingenious men and have found out”: Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, pp. 91–92.

84 “I shall not dare to think”: Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, pp. 91–92.

84 “Should those Heroes go on”: Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 130, quoting Joseph Glanvill. Glanvill’s remark is from his Vanity of Dogmatizing, written in 1661.

86 Gimcrack studied the moon: Claude Lloyd, “Shadwell and the Virtuosi.” The Shadwell quotes come from Lloyd’s essay.

86 Hooke went to see the play: Shapin, “Rough Trade.”

86 Samuel Butler lampooned: In his poem Hudibras, part 2, canto 3.

87 Swift visited the Royal Society: Nicolson and Mohler, “The Scientific Background of Swift’s Voyage to Laputa,” p. 320.

87 “softening Marble for Pillows”: Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, part 3, ch. 5.

87 “one Man shall do the Work”: Ibid., part 3, ch. 4.

88 “a Shoulder of Mutton”: Ibid., part 3, ch. 2.

88 Albert Einstein and his wife: Marcia Bartusiak, “Einstein and Beyond,” National Geographic, May 2005, available at http://science.nationalgeo

89 “All the books of Moses”: John Redwood, ReasonRidiculeand Religion, p. 119, and Roy Porter, The Creation of the Modern World, p. 130.

89 “Is there anything more Absurd”: Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, p. 175.


91fn The moon gave the Greeks: Jurgen Renn, ed., Galileo in Context (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 198.

92fn The stars will not look: Albert Boime, “Van Gogh’s Starry Night: A History of Matter and a Matter of History, ” Arts Magazine, December 1984, available at Donald Olson, a Texas State University astronomer, has carried out similar work, notably a study of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

93 “The falling body moved more jubilantly”: Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science, p. 6.

93 “a book written in mathematical characters”: The passage is from Galileo’s Assayer (1623), available at∼hos/h291/assayer.htm.

94fn Galileo’s intellectual offspring: Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, p. 58.

94 “the actuality of a potentiality”: Quoted in Joe Sachs, “Aristotle: Motion and Its Place in Nature,” at The remark is quoted in slightly different form in Oded Balaban, “The Modern Misunderstanding of Aristotle’s Theory of Motion,” at

94 “If the earsthe tongue”: Galileo, The Assayer.

95 “communicate in the language”: Charles Coulston Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity, p. 43.

95 “Do not all charms fly”: John Keats, Lamia, part 2.

95 “When I heard the learn’d astronomer”: Walt Whitman, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.”

96 “Shut up and calculate”: The remark is nearly always attributed to Feynman, it seems to have been coined by the physicist David Mermin. See David Mermin, “Could Feynman Have Said This?,” Physics Today, May 2004, p.10, available at

96 People do not “know a thing”: Steven Nadler, “Doctrines of explanation in late scholasticism and in the mechanical philosophy,” in Daniel Garber and Michael Ayers, eds., The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

96 “not a necessary part”: Kline, MathematicsThe Loss of Certainty, p. 47, quoting Galileo, Two New Sciences.


97 “It is not only the heavens”: Richard Westfall, “Newton and the Scientific Revolution,” in Stayer, ed., Newton’s Dream, p. 10.

98 seventeenth-century Italy feared science: Some recent scholars have argued that this notion is out of date. “The older Italian historiography tended to present late seventeenth-century science as sucked back in time by the black hole of Galileo’s trial,” writes Mario Biagioli, but “recent work has shown that such a simple explanation will not do.” See Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich, eds., The Scientific Revolution in National Context (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 12.

98 “for at the slightest jar”: Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, p. 190, quoting Jean Bodin.

99 “Worst of all”: Ibid., p. 193.

99 “Sense pleads for Ptolemy”: Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture, p. 117.

101 With no other rationale: Richard Westfall, “Newton and the Scientific Revolution,” pp. 6–7.

101 “If the moonthe planets”: Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 498.

102 “The Sun is lost”: John Donne, “An Anatomy of the World.”


105 “on or about December 1910”: Virginia Woolf, “Character in Fiction.” Woolf had in mind how writers like James Joyce portrayed their characters’ inner lives.

105 “The Mathematical Professor at Padua”: Nicolson, “The ‘New Astronomy’ and English Imagination,” p. 35.

106 He had known “all the stars”: Kitty Ferguson, Tycho and Kepler, p. 46.

106 “the greatest wonder”: Ibid., p. 47.

107 a standing-room-only crowd: Nicolson, “The Telescope and Imagination,” p. 8.

107 On the morning of September 31609: New-York Historical Society Collections, 2nd ser. (1841), vol. 1, pp. 71–74. This is from an excerpt online at

108 The breakthrough that made the telescope: Albert Van Helden, ed., in his “Introduction” to Sidereal Nuncius (The Sidereal Messenger), by Galileo Galilei (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 2–3.

108 They took turns peering: Ibid., p. 6.

108 “Many of the nobles”: Nicolson, “The Telescope and Imagination,” p. 12.

108 “to discover at a much greater distance”: Van Helden, “Introduction,” p. 7.

109 It revealed true features: Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, p. 72. I owe to Shapin these observations about the telescope having had to prove its trustworthiness. Shapin also cites a variety of other factors that made the telescope hard to use and hard to evaluate.

109 Galileo continued to improve: Van Helden, “Introduction,” p. 9.

109 “absolute novelty”: The quotes from Galileo in this paragraph and in the next several sentences come from Nicolson, “The Telescope and Imagination,” pp. 14–15.

111 Why could not the Earth itself?: Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, p. 222.

111 What could be “more splendid”: Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being, p. 126.

111 “When the heavens were a little”: Ibid., p. 133.

112 “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces”: Ibid., p. 127.

112 Man occupied “the filth and mire”: Ibid., p. 102. E. M. W. Tillyard, in The Elizabethan World Picture, writes that “the earth in the Ptolemaic system was the cesspool of the universe” (p. 39).

113 Galileo’s adversary Cardinal Bellarmine: Karen Armstrong, A History of God, p. 290.


114 He put his own saliva: On September 17, 1683, Leeuwenhoek described his teeth-cleaning routine and the “animalcules” he found in his mouth. Excerpts from that letter, and much other material related to Leeuwenhoek’s discoveries, can be found at hoek.htm.

115 “exceedingly small animals”: Marjorie Nicolson, “The Microscope and English Imagination,” p. 167.

115 And he had witnesses: Ibid., p. 167.

115 the first person ever to see sperm cellsThe Collected Letters of Antoni van Leeu- wenhoek, edited by a Committee of Dutch Scientists (Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger, 1941), vol. 2, pp. 283–95. This letter was written in November 1677 to William Brouncker, president of the Royal Society.

116 “His Majesty seeing the little animals": Clara Pinto-Correia, The Ovary of Eve (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), p. 69.

116 “limbs with jointsveins in these limbs”: Nicolson, “The Microscope and English Imagination,” p. 210.

117 “Were men and beast made”: Michael White, Isaac NewtonThe Last Sorcerer, p. 149, quoting a notebook entry of Newton’s headed “Of God.”

117 “large Hollows and Roughnesses”: Robert Hooke, Micrographia. See

117 “flies which look as big as a lamb”: “Commentary on Galileo Galilei,” in James Newman, ed., The World of Mathematics, vol. 2, p. 732fn.

118 “a fine moss growing”: Lisa Jardine, The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, p. 164.

118 “one who walks about”: Westfall, Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England, p. 27.

119 “There may be as much curiosity”: Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, p. 145.


120 “CubesRhombsPyramids”: Nicolson, “The Microscope and English Imagination,” p. 209, quoting Henry Baker, Employment for the Microscope. Baker wrote much later than Leeuwenhoek, in 1753, but everyone who has ever looked through a microscope has uttered some variant of Baker’s remark.

121 The central idea was that all the objects: Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture, p. 26.

121 “We must believe that”: Ibid., p. 40.

122 He strapped himself each day: John Carey, “Pope’s Fallibility,” in Original CopySelected Reviews and Journalism 1969–1986 (London: Faber & Faber, 1987), p. 109, and Harold Bloom, Genius (New York: Warner, 2002), p. 271.

123 “The work of the creator”: Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being, p. 53.

123 “worthy of an infinite CREATOR”: Ibid., p. 133.

123 “We must say that God”: Ibid., p. 224.

124 “If God had made use”: Ibid., p. 179.

124 “and the characters are triangles”: Galileo, The Assayer.

124 “Nature is pleased with simplicity”: G. A. J. Rogers, “Newton and the Guaranteeing God,” in Force and Popkin, eds., Newton and Religion, p. 232, quoting Newton’s Principia.

124 “It is impossible that God”: Paolo Rossi, Logic and the Art of Memory, p. 193.

125 “God always complies”: Peter K. Machamer, The Cambridge Companion to Galileo (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 193.

125 “Nature does not make jumps”: Robert Nisbet, History of the Idea of Progress (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 158.

125 “If triangles had a god”: Montesquieu, Persian Letters, no. 59.

125 “Einstein was a man who”: Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, p. 256.


126 “vast Multitude of different Sorts”: John Ray, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation, available at

127 “How extremely stupid”: Leonard Huxley, The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (New York: Appleton, 1916), vol. 1, p. 176.

127 “It is natural to admit”: André Maurois cites Voltaire’s remark in his introduction to Voltaire’s Candide, trans. Lowell Blair (New York: Bantam, 1959), p. 5.

128 “Some kinds of beasts”: Michael White, Isaac Newton, p. 149.

128 The world contained wood: Thomas, Man and the Natural World, p. 20.

128 Even if someone had conceived: Steve Jones, Darwin’s Ghost (New York: Random House, 2000), p. 194.

128 “a thought of God”: David Dobbs, Reef MadnessCharles DarwinAlexander Agassizand the Meaning of Coral (New York: Pantheon, 2005), p. 3.


129 “all things are numbers”: Kline, MathematicsThe Loss of Certainty, p. 12.

129fn As one of Pythagoras’s followers: Jamie James, The Music of the Spheres (New York: Springer, 1995), p. 35.

130 “one of the truly momentous”: Chandrasekhar, “Shakespeare, Newton, and Beethoven.”

130 St. Augustine explained: Barrow, Pi in the Sky, p. 256.

131 “the first scientific proof”: Kline, MathematicsThe Loss of Certainty, p. 66.

132 “You must have felt thistoo”: Chandrasekhar, “Shakespeare, Newton, and Beethoven.”

133 “shuddering before the beautiful”: Ibid.

133 “the years of searching”: From a 1933 lecture by Einstein, “About the Origins of General Relativity,” at Glasgow University. Matthew Trainer discusses Einstein’s lecture in “About the Origins of the General Theory of Relativity: Einstein’s Search for the Truth,” European Journal of Physics 26, no. 6 (November 2005).

133 “to watch the sunset”The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967), p. 38.

133 “Of all escapes from reality”: Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscrete Thoughts, p. 70.

134 his headimpaled on a pike: Ferguson, Tycho and Kepler, p. 344. My references to witches and Kepler’s mother come from Ferguson and from Max Caspar, Kepler.

134 “When the storm rages”: Benson Bobrick, The Fated Sky (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), p. 70.


135 Mathematics had almost nothing: For a brilliant account of the difference between math as a mathematician sees it and as the subject is taught in school, see Paul Lockhart, “A Mathematician’s Lament,”

135 “A mathematicianlike a painter”: G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology, p.13, available at∼holmes/holmes/A%20Mathematician’s%20Apology.pdf.

135 “upon which Sir Isaac”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 192.

136 “A naturalist would scarce expect”: Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, p. 227.


143 If two dinosaurs: Mario Livio, Is God a Mathematician?, p. 11, quoting Martin Gardner, Are Universes Thicker than Blackberries? (New York: Norton, 2004).

143 “strange Cryptography”: Nicolson, “The Telescope and Imagination,” p. 6, quoting Sir Thomas Browne.

143 Nature presented a greater challenge: In an essay in 1930, Einstein wrote, “What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength.” See Albert Einstein, “Religion and Science,” New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930.

144 God “took delight to hide”: Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 320.


145 “In what manner does the countenance”: Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 279. Half a century after its publication, The Sleepwalkers remains the best and liveliest account of the birth of modern astronomy. I have drawn repeatedly on Koestler’s superlative history.

145 “I was born premature”: Ibid., p. 231.

146 “That man has in every way”: Ibid., p. 236.

147 The conjunction point after that: My discussion of Jupiter and Saturn follows the account in Christopher M. Linton, From Eudoxus to Einstein, p. 170.

148 “The delight that I took”: Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 247.

149 “The triangle is the first”: Ibid., p. 249.


152 “And now I pressed forward”: Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 250.

152 “instead of twenty or one hundred”: Ibid., p. 248.

153 Euclid proved that there are exactly five: One way to see that there can only be a limited number of Platonic solids is to focus on one vertex and imagine the faces that meet there. There must be at least three such faces, and the angles at each vertex must all be identical and must add up to less than 360 degrees. Meeting all those conditions at once is impossible unless each face is a triangle, square, or pentagon. (Each angle of a hexagon is 120 degrees, for instance, so three or more hexagons cannot meet at one vertex.)

153 If you needed dice: Marcus du Sautoy, Symmetry (New York: Harper, 2008), p. 5.

154 He burst into tears: Caspar, Kepler, p. 63.

154 “Now I no longer regretted”: Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 251.

155 “For a long time I wanted”: Owen Gingerich, “Johannes Kepler and the New Astronomy,” available at

155 He happily devoted: Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 269.

155 “No one,” he boasted: Caspar, Kepler, p. 71.

155 “too pretty not to be true”: James Watson, The Double Helix (New York: Touchstone, 2001), p. 204.

156 “Never in history”: Gingerich, “Johannes Kepler and the New Astronomy,” p. 350.


157 “Would that God deliver me”: Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science, p. 70.

158 “the heavenly motions are nothing but”: Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 392.

158fn Not by the human ear: Rattansi, “Newton and the Wisdom of the Ancients,” p. 189.

158fn The first person to refer: Curtis Wilson, “Kepler’s Laws, So-Called,” HAD News (newsletter of the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society), no. 31, May 1994.

158 “My brain gets tired”: Giorgio de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo, p. 106fn.

159 In his student days: Ferguson, Tycho and Kepler, pp. 31–32.

160 had cost a ton of gold: Gingerich, “Johannes Kepler and the New Astronomy,” p. 350.

160 “any single instrument cost more”: Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 278.

160 “I was in possession”: Ibid., p. 345.


162 Even armed with Tycho’s: By far the best account of the mathematical ins and outs is Koestler’s The Sleepwalkers.

163 But Tycho’s data were twice: Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, pp. 211–12.

163 “For uswho by divine kindness”: Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 322.

163 “warfare” with the unyielding data: Livio, Is God a Mathematician?, p. 249.

164 Even Galileorevolutionary though he was: De Santillana, The Crime of Galileo, p. 106fn.

166 “a cartload of dung”: Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, p. 397.

167 “On March 8 of this present year”: Ibid., p. 394.

167 “I have consummated the work”: Ferguson, Tycho and Kepler, p. 340.

168 He saw—somehow: Joseph Mazur provides this example in The Motion Paradox, p. 91.


169 “I believe that if a hundred”: Bertrand Russell, The Scientific Outlook, p. 34.

170 “a way of bewitching”: Quoted in de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo, p. 115.

170 Galileo put the book away: Ibid., pp. 106fn., 168.

171 “He discourses often amid fifteen”: Ibid., p. 112.

171 “If reasoning were like hauling”: Galileo, The Assayer.

175 “Shut yourself up with some friend”: Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. This discussion takes place on day two.

175 “A company of chessmen”: Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, p. 98.


179 “It has been observed that missiles”: The passage is from Galileo’s Two New Sciences, quoted in David Goodstein and Judith Goodstein, Feynman’s Lost Lecture, p. 38.

181 Newton pictured it all: Newton drew the diagram in the 1680s, but it was first published after his death, in A Treatise of the System of the World, a less mathematical treatment of the Principia. See John Roche, “Newton’s Principia,” in Fauvel et al., eds., Let Newton Be!, p. 58.


182 “My aim is to show”: Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, p. 33.

183fn “Music,” Leibniz wrote: Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture, p. 287.

183 “Galileo spent twenty years”: Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity, p. 42.


187 Unlike most legends: Crease, The Prism and the Pendulum, p. 31.

188 “In performing the experiment”: Ibid., p. 32.

188 When television shows a diver: Barry Newman, “Now Diving: Sir Isaac Newton,” Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2008.


190 “I sleep ten hours”: Alfred Hooper, Makers of Mathematics (Vintage, 1948), p. 209.

192fn One prominent historian calls it: The historian was Salomon Bochner, in The Role of Mathematics in the Rise of Science (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966), p. 40. For more on the invention of the musical staff, see Alfred Crosby, The Measure of RealityQuantification and Western Society1250–1600 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 142–44.

193 “the greatest single step ever”: Livio, Is God a Mathematician?, p. 86.


194 known today as Cartesian coordinates: Descartes’ original presentation differed from the treatment that would become standard, but all the future changes were implicit in his version.

195 “I do not enjoy speaking in praise”: E. T. Bell, The Development of Mathematics, p. 139.

195 “a notable advance in the history”: Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 20. Scientists have now found that human infants and various nonhuman animals can count (they can distinguish between two M&Ms and three, for instance), but Whitehead’s point was that it took a breakthrough to see that such concepts as “twoness” were worth identifying.

195 “The point about zero”: Newman, ed., The World of Mathematics, vol. 1, p. 442.

196 Descartes wrestled to make sense: Helena M. Pycior, SymbolsImpossible Numbersand Geometric Entanglements (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 82.

197 Nor did it matter if the rock: Eugene Wigner makes this point in his pathbreaking essay “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.”

198 If there were vacuums: Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science, p. 3.

198fn The question of whether vacuums: Russell Shorto, Descartes’ Bones (New York: Doubleday, 2008), p. 25.

198 “Only by imagining an impossible”: A. Rupert Hall, From Galileo to Newton, p. 63. Hall cites the two passages from Galileo that I quote in his brilliant discussion of abstraction in science. See ibid., pp. 63–64. My comment about mathematics and abstraction in the final sentence of this chapter is also a paraphrase of Hall’s argument on his p. 63.


202 Albert of Saxonya logician: My discussion follows the one on pp. 52–55 of John Barrow’s admirably lucid The Infinite Book.


210 For decades mathematicians had all tried: Struik, A Concise History of Mathematics, pp. 101–9.


219 Abraham Lincoln asked his listeners: Lincoln made his remark on October 15, 1858 (and in at least one earlier speech) in his last debate with Stephen Douglas. The complete text is at

222 “The planet Mars comes close”: Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture, p. 230.

223 Perhaps infinitesimals were real but: Carl Boyer, The History of the Calculus and Its Conceptual Development, p. 213.

223 Leibniz tried to explain: William Dunham, The Calculus Gallery, p. 24.

223 “an enigma rather than”: Leibniz’s puzzled disciples were James and John Bernoulli, quoted in Kline, MathematicsThe Loss of Certainty, p. 137.

223 “the ultimate ratio”: Ibid., p. 135.

223 “In mathematics the minutest”: Ibid., p. 134.

223 calculus is the Latin: Donald Benson, A Smoother PebbleMathematical Explorations, p. 167.

224 “For science it cannot be”: George Berkeley, The Analystor A Discourse Addressed to an Infidel Mathematician (London, 1754), p. 34.

224 Leibnizboundlessly optimistic: Dunham, The Calculus Gallery, p. 24, and Kline, MathematicsThe Loss of Certainty, p. 140.

224 “Persist,” d’Alembert advised: Kline, MathematicsThe Loss of Certainty, p. 162.


226 Calculus was in the air: Most Newtonian scholars, including Newton’s most careful biographer, Richard Westfall, and the preeminent expert on Newton’s mathematical work, D. T. Whiteside, argue emphatically that Newton achieved his mathematical breakthroughs essentially on his own. For a contrary point of view, arguing that the influence of the Cambridge mathematician Isaac Barrow on Newton has been downplayed, see Mordechai Feingold’s “Newton, Leibniz, and Barrow, Too: An Attempt at a Reinterpretation,” Isis 84, no. 2 (June 1993), pp. 310–38.

226 market called Stourbridge Fair: Stourbridge Fair served as Bunyan’s inspiration for Vanity Fair in A Pilgrim’s Progress. See Edmund Venables, Life of John Bunyan (London: Walter Scott, 1888), p. 173.

226 “The way to chastity”: Gale Christianson, In the Presence of the CreatorIsaac Newton and his Times, p. 258.

227 Newton “read it ’til”: D. T. Whiteside, “Isaac Newton: Birth of a Mathematician,” p. 58.

227 “Read only the titles”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 98.

228 “The same year in May”: Ibid., p. 143.

229 “All this,” he wrote: Ibid.

229 “If you haven’t done”: Author interview, in Edward Dolnick, “New Ideas and Young Minds,” Boston Globe, April 23, 1984.

230 “Age isof coursea fever chill”: Quoted in Dean Simonton, Creativity in Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 68.

230 “I know that when”: Barrow, Pi in the Sky, p. 165.

230 “Look at a composer”: Author interview, in Dolnick, “New Ideas.”

231 “no old Men (excepting Dr. Wallis)”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 139.

231 From his earliest youth: Gale Christianson, “Newton the Man—Again.”

231 “difficulty & ill success”: Christianson, In the Presence of the Creator, p. 260.

232 He took the Latin form: Ackroyd, Newton, p. 39.

232 “I will give thee the treasures”: Christianson, Isaac Newton, p. 58. The verse is Isaiah 45:3.

232 “The fact that he was unknown”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 137.

232 “In 1665as he realized”: Ibid., p. 138.


234 In factthoughLeibniz felt: Since God was infinite, His creation was infinite as well, which meant that the process of finding new things to understand was never-ending. But this was a virtue, not a defect, because human happiness consisted in constantly finding new aspects of God’s perfection to admire.

234 “I don’t know what I may seem”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 863.

234 “As a blind man has no idea”: I. Bernard Cohen’s translation of Principia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p. 428.

236 “perhaps the most resolute champion”: Ernst Cassirer, “Newton and Leibniz,” p. 379.


237 “In the century of Kepler”: C. H. Edwards, Jr., The Historical Development of the Calculus, p. 231.

237 “an aptitude that was hard to find”: Leibniz’s letter can be found at, a marvelous website run by the English philosopher Lloyd Strickland. See, “Account of a Letter from Mr. Leibniz to the Abbé de St. Pierre, on a Talking Dog.”

237 “a museum of everything”: Wiener, “Leibniz’s Project.”

238 “I have so much that is new”: Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 256.

238 “If controversies were to arise”: Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, p. 281. (See Chapter 14, “From Leibniz to the Encyclopédie.)

238 Today a diligent team: Author interview with Lawrencc Carlin, philosophy department at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, July 15, 2008.

238 “Leibniz was one of the supreme”: Russell, History of Western Philosophy, p. 581.

239fn Unbeknownst to Leibniz: Harriot’s work on the telescope is discussed by Albert Van Helden in his “Introduction” to Galileo’s Sidereal Messenger, p. 9, and his mathematical work is discussed in the online journal Plus. See Anna Faherty, “Thomas Harriot, A Lost Pioneer,” at

239 “A container shall be provided”: George Dyson, Darwin Among the Machines, p. 37.

240 Leibniz’s knowledge of mathematics: Joseph E. Hofmann, Leibniz in Paris 1672–1676His Growth to Mathematical Maturity, p.2.

240 “I read [mathematics] almost”: Dunham, The Calculus Gallery, p. 21.

241 his correspondence alone consisted: Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 138.

242 At an elegant dinner party: A. Rupert Hall, Philosophers at War, p. 54.

242 Or perhaps he decided: The suggestions in this sentence and the next are from email correspondence with Simon Schaffer, a distinguished historian of science at Cambridge University, on September 27, 2009.

243 “6accdae13eff7i319n4o4qrr4s8t12ux”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 265.

243 Leibniz made no mention: Hall, Philosophers at War, p. 77.


252 “the philosopher’s stone that changed”: Bell, The Development of Mathematics, p. 134.


254 We find good news: My discussion here of position, speed, and acceleration draws heavily on Ian Stewart’s elegantly written account in Nature’s Numbers, pp. 50–52.

256 “You can work out distances”: Stewart, Nature’s Numbers, p. 15.

257 Proust’s “little pieces of paper”: Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way, trans. Lydia Davis (New York: Viking, 2003), p. 51.

257 Of all the ways to fire a cannon: Paul Nahin, When Least is Best, p. 165. Nahin also discusses the physics of shooting a basketball.

258 “as dawn compares to the bright”: Dunham, The Calculus Gallery, p. 19, quoting James Gregory.


259 “one of the chief geometers”: Hall, Philosophers at War, p. 111. For any student of the Newton-Leibniz feud, Hall’s book is the essential text.

259 “I value my friends”: Ibid., p. 112.

259 “Taking Mathematicks from the beginning”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 721.

260 “the spectacle of the century”: Boorstin, The Discoverers, p. 413.

261 “round his brains such a thick crust”: William Henry Wilkins, The Love of an Uncrowned QueenSophia DorotheaConsort of George I (New York: Duffield, 1906), p. 72.

262 “When in good humour Queen Anne”: Macaulay, History of England, vol. 5, p. 190.

262 the king’s only cultural interests: Plumb, The First Four Georges, p. 41.

262 The problems rose out of: The best source for the tangled affairs of the Hanover court is, a website maintained by the University of Houston philosopher Gregory Brown. See

264 “I dare say,” Leibniz wrote: Gregory Brown, “Personal, Political, and Philosophical Dimensions of the Leibniz-Caroline Correspondence,” p. 271.

264 “The king has joked”: Ibid., p. 292.

265 “perhaps the most famous”: Ibid., p. 262.

265 The princess scolded her ex-tutor: Ibid., p. 282.

265 “the great men of our century”: Quoted at oline_ansbach/caroline.html.

265 “What difference does it make”: Brown, “Leibniz-Caroline Correspondence,” p. 282.


266 “attempted to rob me”: Cited in Robert Merton’s classic essay “Priorities in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science,” p. 635. Galileo’s charge comes at the very beginning of The Assayer.

266 “I certainly should be vexed”: Merton, “Priorities in Scientific Discovery,” p. 648.

267 “Almost no one is capable”: Alfred Adler, “Mathematics and Creativity,” New Yorker, February 19, 1972.

269 “I throw myself”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 724.

269 “numerous and skilful”: Ibid., p. 725.

270 “Mr. Leibniz cannot be”: The entire review is reprinted as an appendix to Hall’s Philosophers at War. The quoted passage appears on p. 298.

270 Ittoowas written: Charles C. Gillispie, “Isaac Newton,” in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York: Scribner’s, 1970–80), vol. 10.

270 “broke Leibniz’ heart”: William Whiston, Historical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (London, 1748), p. 132.


271 “So few went to hear Him”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 209.

272 “In the year 1666”: Ibid., p. 154.

272 The storywhich is the one thing: Westfall discusses the evidence pro and con in Never at Rest, pp. 154–55, and is more inclined than many to give the story some credence.

272 Despite his craving: Simon Schaffer, “Somewhat Divine,” London Review of Books, November 16, 2000, reviewing I. Bernard Cohen’s translation of Newton’s Principia.

272 Historians who have scrutinized: See Cohen’s “Introduction” to his translation of the Principia, p. 15, and Schaffer, “Somewhat Divine.”

273 “I began to think”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 143.

275 By combining Kepler’s third law: I. Bernard Cohen, “Newton’s Third Law and Universal Gravity,” p. 572.

277 “compared the force required”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 143.


279 In crowded rooms thick: Steven Shapin, “At the Amsterdam,” London Review of Books, April 20, 2006, reviewing The Social Life of Coffee by Brian Cowan. See also Mark Girouard, Cities and People (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 207.

279 Wrenstill more skilledconfessed: Merton, “Priorities in Scientific Discovery,” p. 636.

279 “Mr. Hook said that he had it”: Roche, “Newton’s Principia,” in Fauvel et al., eds., Let Newton Be!, p. 58.

280 taverns with Peter the Great: Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 318.

280 he would invent a diving bell: Alan Cook, Edmond HalleyCharting the Heavens and the Seas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 11, 140–41, 281.

280 “Sir Isaac replied immediately”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 403.


282fn The statement if a planet: Bruce Pourciau, “Reading the Master: Newton and the Birth of Celestial Mechanics,” and Curtis Wilson, “Newton’s Orbit Problem.”

283 Albert Einstein kept a picture: Dudley Herschbach, “Einstein as a Student,” available at

283 “Nature to him”: This was from Einstein’s foreword to a new edition of Newton’s Opticks, published in 1931.

283 “Now I am upon”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 405.

283 “I never knew him take”: Ibid., p. 192.

284 “When he has sometimes taken”: Ibid., p. 406.

284 If everything attracted everything: Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, p. 258.

285 “To do this business right”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 409.

285 “That all these problems”: Chandrasekhar, “Shakespeare, Newton, and Beethoven.”

287 “swallowed up and lost”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 456.


288 “a nice man to deal with”: Henry Richard Fox Bourne, The Life of John Locke, vol. 2 (New York: Harper Brothers, 1876), p. 514.

289 “There is one thing more”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 446.

289 “Mr Hook seems to expect”: Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 154.

289 “He has done nothing”: Ibid., p. 155.

289 “Philosophy [] is such”: Ibid., p. 155.

290 He never replied to Hooke’s letter: Westfall, Never at Rest, pp. 387–88.

290 Newton had designed a telescope: Ibid., p. 233.

291 “poore & solitary endeavours”: Ibid., p. 237.

291 “the oddestif not the most considerable”: Ibid., p. 237.

292 “Now is not this very fine”: Ibid., p. 448.

292 Hooke stalked out of the room: Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 159.

292 Even twenty years after: Ibid., p. 137.

292 In the course of the move: Christianson, Isaac Newton, p. 106.


293 “I must now again beg you”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 450.

294 If the universe had been governed by a different law: Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers, p. 150. See also Schaffer, “Somewhat Divine.”

295 “Pick a flower on Earth”: Dirac may have had in mind a line from Francis Thompson’s poem “The Mistress of Vision,” where Thompson writes that “thou canst not stir a flower without troubling of a star.” The same thought had moved Edgar Allan Poe to shake his head at the audacity of Newton’s theory of cosmic connectedness. “If I venture to displace, by even the billionth part of an inch, the microscopical speck of dust which lies now upon the point of my finger,” Poe marveled in his essay “Eureka,” “ . . . I have done a deed which shakes the Moon in her path, which causes the Sun to be no longer the Sun, and which alters forever the destiny of the multitudinous myriads of stars that roll and glow in the majestic presence of their Creator.”

295 The Principia made its first appearance: Samuel Pepys was president of the Royal Society in 1687, and his name appears on the title page just below Newton’s.

296 “Nearer the gods no mortal may approach”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 437.

296 the French astronomer Lagrange declared: Morris Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture, p. 209.

296 It began paying Halley: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 453.


297 “There goes the man that writt a book”: Ibid., p. 468.

297 The first print run was tiny: Ackroyd, Newton, p. 89.

297 “It is doubtful,” wrote the historian: Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity, p. 140.

297 Perhaps half a dozen scientists: Hall, Philosophers at War, p. 52.

298 “A Book for 12 Wise Men”: “Lights All Askew in the Heavens,” New York Times, November 9, 1919, p. 17. See

298 “I’m trying to think who”: Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1998), p. 85.

298 But he rarely mentions calculus: I. Bernard Cohen discusses in detail Newton’s use of calculus in the “Introduction” to his translation of the Principia, pp. 122–27.

298 “Newton’s geometry seems to shriek”: Roche, “Newton’s Principia,” in Fauvel et al., eds., Let Newton Be!, p. 50.

299 “By the help of the new Analysis”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 424.

299 “There is no letter”: Cohen, “Introduction,” p. 123.

300 “As we read the Principia”: Chandrasekhar, “Shakespeare, Newton, and Beethoven.”


301 Molière long ago made fun: Thomas Kuhn famously cited Molière in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 104.

302 “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy”: Bohr made the remark to Wolfgang Pauli and added, “My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough.” Dael Wolfle, ed., Symposium on Basic Research (Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1959), p. 66.

302fn In timethis bewilderment: J. J. MacIntosh, “Locke and Boyle on Miracles and God’s Existence,” p. 196.

303 “He claims that a body attracts”: Brown, “Leibniz-Caroline Correspondence,” p. 273.

303 “Mysterious though it was”: John Henry, “Pray do not Ascribe that Notion to me: God and Newton’s Gravity,” in Force and Popkin, eds., The Books of Nature and Scripture, p. 141.

303 “even if an angel”: Brown, “Leibniz-Caroline Correspondence,” p. 291.

304 If the sun suddenly exploded: Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe (New York: Norton, 1999), p. 56.

305 “so great an absurdity”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 505.

305 “To tell us that every Species”: From the end of Opticks, quoted in Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, p. 259.

306 “as if it were a Crime”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 779.

306 “Ye cause of gravity”: Ibid., p. 505.

306 “I have not been able to discover”: Cohen’s translation of the Principia, p. 428.


307fn The debate over whether: “Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder for Climate Change Dispute,” New York Times, November 21, 2009.

308 “He is eternal and infinite”: Cohen’s translation of the Principia, p. 427.

309 “Scientistslike whoring Jerusalem”: Dennis Todd, “Laputa, the Whore of Babylon, and the Idols of Science,” Studies in Philology 75, no. 1 (Winter 1978), p. 113.

310 “they may do any thing”: Quoted in a brilliant, far-ranging essay by Steven Shapin, “Of Gods and Kings: Natural Philosophy and Politics in the Leibniz-Clarke Disputes,” p. 211.

311 If you stopped to think about itwrote Whiston: Todd, “Laputa, the Whore of Babylon, and the Idols of Science,” p. 108.

311 “Sir Isaac Newtonand his followers”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 778.

311 “If God does not concern himself”: Shapin, “Of Gods and Kings,” p. 193.

312 “If a king had a kingdom”: I owe this observation about Leibniz and politics to Martin Tamny, “Newton, Creation, and Perception,” p. 54.

312 Newton emphasized God’s will: Shapin, “Of Gods and Kings,” p. 194.


315 a French mathematician named Urbain Le Verrier: Kline, MathematicsThe Loss of Certainty, pp. 62–63, and Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture, p. 210.

316 Benjamin Franklin sat deep in thought: Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew (New York: Vintage, 2004), pp. 71–73.

316 “The Constitution of the United States”: I. Bernard Cohen, Science and the Founding Fathers, p. 90.

317 “I had no need of that hypothesis”: Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture, p. 210.

317 “Mr. Leibniz is dead”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 779.

317 “Nothing could give me a greater”: Brown, “Leibniz-Caroline Correspondence,” p. 285.

318 “You would have thought it was a felon”: Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 306.

318 “The more I got to know Leibniz”: Ibid., p. 117, quoting Eike Hirsch.

319 “stone dolls”: Milo Keynes discusses Newton’s views on art and literature in “The Personality of Isaac Newton,” pp. 26–27.

319 “If we evolved a race of Isaac Newtons”: from an interview with Huxley in J. W. N. Sullivan, Contemporary Mind (London: Toulmin, 1934), p. 143.

319 “The more I learned”: I interviewed Westfall in connection with an article marking the three hundredth anniversary of the Principia. See Edward Dolnick, “Sir Isaac Newton,” Boston Globe, July 27, 1987. Westfall used the same “wholly other” phrase in the preface to Never at Rest, p. x, where he discussed Newton’s uniqueness in a bit more detail.

320 “He cried out with admiration”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 473.

320 His fellow professors did not know: Ibid., p. 194.