Isaac Newton and Scientific Certainty
Floris Cohen is regarded the world over as one of the foremost authorities on the emergence of modern science in seventeenth-century Europe, which he analyzed in his How Modern Science Came Into the World. He now presents us with a concise book about Newton’s scientific significance, unique among the works on Newton published to date. His account is thoroughly accessible without at any stage sacrificing scholarly rigour and depth.
Cohen’s unparalleled grasp of the Scientific Revolution assists him in giving us great insight into the work of a man regarded as the most gifted yet enigmatic of scientists. We learn about Newton’s odd personality, his intellectual monomania, his difficult relationship with the opposite sex, his nervous collapse after the completion of his most important work and, not least, his innumerable animosities.
At the heart of the book lie questions about Newton’s scientific achievement. What makes his contributions in the domains of mathematics, motion, colours and universal gravitation so incisive? Even more importantly, what lends them the certainty that gives scientific knowledge its special status? In answering these questions, so rarely addressed, Cohen highlights Newton’s unprecedented significance by time and again comparing the way he tackled specific problems with the approaches of his two most brilliant contemporaries, Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens. Unlike them, Newton eventually broke out of existing intellectual frameworks, building a new scientific synthesis that could stand the test of time.
Based on the intriguing story of Newton’s life and, above all, the concrete problems he addressed, Cohen has written a superb introduction to scientific thought.
- The book’s comparative approach brings to life the work of the greatest scientist of all time.
- By describing Newton’s achievements, Cohen shows how scientific certainty emerged.
- This account of how Newton’s Principia and Opticks came about makes them accessible to a wide range of readers.