The Clockwork Universe

The Clockwork Universe

Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

Book - 2011
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Baker & Taylor
A 350th anniversary tribute to the Royal Society documents the work of late 17th-century scientific geniuses who in spite of period ignorance forged lasting understandings about the organization of the universe. By the best-selling author of The Forger’s Spell. 30,000 first printing.

New York Times bestselling author Edward Dolnick brings to light the true story of one of the most pivotal moments in modern intellectual history—when a group of strange, tormented geniuses invented science as we know it, and remade our understanding of the world. Dolnick’s earth-changing story of Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the birth of modern science is at once an entertaining romp through the annals of academic history, in the vein of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, and a captivating exploration of a defining time for scientific progress, in the tradition of Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder.

Blackwell Publishing
The New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed science writer Edward Dolnick brings to light the true story of a pivotal moment in modern history, when a group of strange, tormented geniuses---including Isaac Newton---invented science and remade our understanding of the world.

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 nature's most sweeping mysteries. The answers they uncovered still hold the key to how we understand the world.

At the end of the seventeenth 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.

& Taylor

A 350th anniversary tribute to the Royal Society documents the work of late seventeenth-century scientific geniuses who, in spite of period ignorance, forged lasting understandings about the organization of the universe.

Publisher: New York, NY : HarperCollins, c2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780061719516
Branch Call Number: 509.409 DOL
Characteristics: 378 p. : ill. (some col.)


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Aug 06, 2017

The first half is more fun, setting the context for the math and physics. Then you get to the math, which is more fun than it was in high school, but still math.

Aug 28, 2015

A very comprehensive review of 17th century physics in Europe. The author’s premise that it gave birth to the modern world seems correct because it bridges the gap between the medieval world which reached conclusions about the physical world by reasoning about the “why” of things, rather than the “how” and experimentation to find out. Nevertheless, he explains, that even the most accomplished men (and they were all men) of the Royal Society had a firm belief in a supreme being, a designer and creator. But they also deduced that he was a mathematician, which allowed them to try to discover the workings of his universe through mathematics.
This book is very readable even when the author is explaining difficult concepts. But as another reviewer noted, I too find that it jumps around a bit too much even though there is a time line to aid the reader in placing events. I thought the number of short chapters was overdone, and I would have preferred longer ones that covered a specific scientist or scientists working on a particular problem or chapters with the subject of inquiry.

Aug 28, 2015

An interesting historical look at the state of the societies when the worldview changed from the age of mysticism to the scientific method. Not that this paradigm shift happened at once, nor that the participants had any idea the changes that they would wrought on the world. Definitely worth reading if you are interested.

Nov 22, 2011

recom economist

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top