Newton and the Counterfeiter

Newton and the Counterfeiter

The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist

Book - 2009
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In 1695, Isaac Newton, already renowned as the greatest mind of his age, made a surprising career move.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
ISBN: 9780151012787
0151012784
Branch Call Number: 530.092 N484L 2009
Characteristics: xii, 318 p. ; 22 cm

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patcarstensen
Aug 01, 2016

The book takes a while to get to the crime story part -- it goes through the physics and the alchemy first. The book also covers a lot about 17th century monetary policy.

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hiking1957
Dec 06, 2012

Interesting. Showing a different side of Isaac Newton. This is definitely not one of the stories that I ever heard.

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hweinert
Sep 19, 2011

The scene is 17th-century London's pestilent underbelly, riddled with pickpockets and quack doctors, the stink and groans from the Tower of London, brothels and drunkards. Petty criminals are shaving the edges off coins and melting the silver. Counterfeit coins litter the circulating currency. A serious gambler runs London's Royal Mint. But in 1696, a new Warden of the Mint takes over, and, breaking out of the job description, goes about cleaning up the mess. His name is Sir Isaac Newton.

"Isaac Newton?" science writer Thomas Levenson rightly asks at the start of his new book. "What had the man who had brought order to the cosmos to do with crime and punishment, the flash world of London's gin houses and tenements, bad money and worse faith?"

That's exactly the question that's been simmering in Levenson's mind for a decade. And the result is this inventive biography with a healthy dose of page-turning detective drama. Writing with the sharp eye of a historian, Levenson pulls you into the unexamined life of this brilliant scientist-turned-dogged criminal investigator as he pursues the wily, counterfeiting con-artist William Chaloner.

London had no real police force or fingerprint records at the time. Newton alone had to gather enough evidence to condemn the man with a scheme to infiltrate the Mint. And he did so with no restraint, venturing disguised into London pubs to spy on Chaloner's associates. Down to the apostrophes from Newton's pen, it's a real-life thriller you don't need to be a history-buff to appreciate.

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