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Publisher's Summary

The Clockwork Universe is the story of a band of men who lived in a world of dirt and disease but pictured a universe that ran like a perfect machine. A meld of history and science, this book is a group portrait of some of the greatest minds who ever lived as they wrestled with natures most sweeping mysteries. The answers they uncovered still hold the key to how we understand the world.
At the end of the 17th century, an age of religious wars, plague, and the Great Fire of London when most people saw the world as falling apart, these earliest scientists saw a world of perfect order. They declared that, chaotic as it looked, the universe was in fact as intricate and perfectly regulated as a clock. This was the tail end of Shakespeare's century, when the natural and the supernatural still twined around each other. Disease was a punishment ordained by God, astronomy had not yet broken free from astrology, and the sky was filled with omens. It was a time when little was known and everything was new. These brilliant, ambitious, curious men believed in angels, alchemy, and the devil, and they also believed that the universe followed precise, mathematical laws, a contradiction that tormented them and changed the course of history. The Clockwork Universe is the fascinating and compelling story of the bewildered geniuses of the Royal Society, the men who made the modern world.
©2011 Edward Dolnick (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

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By Troy on 01-15-13

It's a Wonder We Left the Dark Ages

This book sets everything up with a concise account of the kinds of nonsense and "old wives' tales" people believed back in the Middle Ages. It's important to note that people in those times weren't stupid, but superstition permeated everything, and society kept locks on the doors of advancement for a long time, often out of fear. And then little by little, some brave and brilliant minds risked ridicule or worse and slowly unlocked the secrets that transformed our understanding and gave birth to modern science. This is that story of what they did, how they did it, and some of the drama that unfolded because of it. That drama is precisely why I make the remark in the title of this review. This book will reveal that the Dark Ages weren't quite so dark, the Enlightenment wasn't that enlightening, and yet we made it this far in spite of ourselves because of the chain of events that did transpire. It's an interesting account that fills in some of the story behind the story.

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28 of 28 people found this review helpful


By Nelson Alexander on 07-09-11

Calculus Ergo Modernity

I hesitated to buy this one after reading the reviews, so I felt obliged to offer a counter opinion. I thought the book excellent and the narration quite tolerable. While the author centers on the great calculus debate between Newton and Leibniz and tosses in a lot of anecdotal history, the book also functions as a very good primer on the foundations of modern science, treating it as the elaboration and application of mathematics to physical phenomena. The crucial step represented by a mathematics of motion is a central theme. His descriptions of the calculus and the weird conceptual innovation Newton called ???gravity??? are really very good and surprisingly clear in narration without any visual aids. He also paints a vivid picture of the physical and metaphysical worlds of the 17th century, including a welcome insistence on the essential role of religious faith, even mysticism, in the thinking of the early modern scientists. As to the narration, I can see why some people might find it slightly irritating. The reader has a plumy voice that dips into avuncular chuckles at points of irony, which can be a bit annoying. But I found the pace and tone very good for comprehension overall. The lives of Newton and Leibniz make a marvelous story, and unless you are already familiar with them you will probably enjoy this book.

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141 of 147 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By dean on 04-07-13

some really interesting bits, but jumped about

I am interested in this period in history and this book provided lots of interesting details. However, at times it seemed to jump about a bit and I was not so comfortable with this lack of a strong flowing narrative

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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By Shane on 05-29-16

Informative but Simple

I really enjoyed this book for giving the gist of one of the most important periods in scientific history. While I think all of the things presented here are true, the tone is sometimes overly simplistic. In other words, it is a fantastic story, but not told with the proper degree of complexity and nuance.

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