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In-Depth Review of Isaac Newton: Adventurer in Thought by Albert Rupert Hall

Isaac Newton was undoubtedly one of the greatest scientists ever known throughout human history. Many authors and scientific historians have attempted to immortalise the great physicist in books and biographies.

Albert Rupert Hall has attempted to do the same with the rather philosophical title of Isaac Newton: Adventurer in Thought. He covers a great deal of ground in his book and leaves nothing lingering in the shadows.

In this review, we will explore the book and whether it’s a cut above the other offerings available on the market.

Approaching the Man Himself

The first area of the work that sticks out from some of the other books on the market is the tone. The book prefers to opt for a more factual tone. Hall keeps many of his personal feelings out of the writing. He doesn’t gush over Newton, even though he obviously admires him greatly.

This continues throughout the book. Even when he talks of some of his greatest discoveries, he prioritises fact-based over an emotional delivery.

An example of this would be on page 67, “Newton completed his first telescope in 1668 and it is the earliest known functional reflecting telescope.”

That tone continues throughout the entire book, no matter what area of Newton’s life Hall happens to be concentrating on.

An Open Account

Hall understands the value of revealing all the facts and giving every area of Newton’s character a fair trial. He doesn’t skip over the negative aspects of the scientist. On the contrary, he does refer regularly to the fact that he wasn’t a social man. Despite the fact he had little time for human beings and the society he lived in, he changed society for the better.

This point comes through well and it demonstrates the open account Hall decides to give Newton.

Another important point to make is Hall’s exploration of all the facets of Newton. It’s easy to focus on the physics and mathematics he’s so famous for. In this book, there are dedicated chapters to chemistry and how he found religion. It’s something so many other books skim over or fail to mention at all.

Reserving Judgement

Whilst there’s no doubt Hall will have his own opinions of Newton, he keeps these to himself. The book doesn’t conclude with a grand sweeping statement filled with opinion. It concludes as it did with Newton; with his dementia and later death.

It underlies the complex genius of Newton. The author makes absolutely no attempt to judge him or come to a solid conclusion on who he was behind his public persona.

Subtle themes like this make Adventurer in Thought a work that does differ from the dusty biographies traditionally found on bookshelves. He introduces us to a wide and varied personality that drove Newton forward in his work.

This new perspective will help any young scholar understand more about the force behind Newton. It won’t answer the questions "Will you do my homework for me?", but it encourages us to think about why he was interested in so many disciplines and why he was so determined to go above and beyond his contemporary peers.

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