Educating Newton

Rediscovering Science

A book by Colin Frayn

If you were given the opportunity to explain the discoveries underpinning the modern world to one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, what would you say? Which topics would be the most shocking? The most exciting? The most unexpected? Would you be able to fill in the gaps? And how do you think your subject would respond?

This entire book flows from one simple thought experiment - a hypothetical meeting with a pivotal figure from the history of humanity in which they are guided through the development of their subject of expertise, through trial, tribulation and tragedy, through the flourishing heyday of fame and fortune, right up to the present day. Few lives offer a framework as rich and varied as that of Sir Isaac Newton within which to construct an account of a personal journey through human intellectual history. And few historical figures would be able to claim such a fundamental role in the foundation of an entire mode of thought.

With Isaac Newton, humanity stopped looking backwards to the fading wisdom of classical Greece, and instead set out on a new path which led eventually to the construction of the modern scientific establishment. His was a life full of extraordinary colour and profound contrast. In equal parts overbearing yet vulnerable; brilliant yet ignorant; selfish yet self-sacrificing; brutally stubborn yet flexible of mind.

Our story starts at the birth of science, in the world that Newton knew so well. Then we urge him forwards, leaping between the most important intellectual discoveries of three centuries in a loosely chronological journey of discovery. In each chapter I cover elements of Newton's life and the lives of other key figures involved in each discovery, but I also explain the scientific principles behind the theories, and discuss more generally the reasoning that led to the formation of modern scientific thought. This is not merely a book of stories, it is primarily a celebration of the scientific method and the extraordinary human legacy it has provided.


The eBook version of Educating Newton is available for free download. You may reproduce it unaltered, with proper acknowledgement of Colin Michael Frayn as the Copyright holder. You may not sell any part of this book or otherwise profit from it without written permission from its author.

Introduction (143kB / PDF)

Full Book (2.2MB / PDF)

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If you are interested in using this book in an educational context, or publishing it, or if you have any questions, comments, corrections or suggestions, then please write to me at the address below.

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Last Modified: 2nd Dec 2017