The life and loves of Isaac Newton

Kat Austen, CultureLab editor

9781846971877.jpgHOW did Isaac Newton come up with gravity? At that question, you may call up the familiar mental image of the young scientist being bopped on the head by a plummeting apple.

In real life, of course, it was not so simple. In his new novel, The Sensorium of God, science writer Stuart Clark catalogues the messy international and interpersonal politics flying around at the time of Newton's great discovery.

The second in Clark's planned trilogy inspired by the history of astrophysics, the novel's narrative orbits around Newton and how he came to his famous theory. The central story draws in many tangential threads: his friendship with comet-discoverer Edmond Halley, his disputes with unsung experimental hero Robert Hooke, his fiery relationship with the Royal Society, and religious objections surrounding natural philosophy.

Forced to pick a side in the current controversy over Newton's sexuality, Clark portrays the professor's relationship with Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier as one of unconsummated mutual attraction. He also explores Newton's dabbling in alchemy, as well as his near-heretical views on the ability of science to decode God's universe. The title, The Sensorium of God references the challenge to divine omnipotence by suggesting that God might need to rely on senses the way that we grubby mortals do.

This second book does not quite have the cohesion or pace of its predecessor, The Sky's Dark Labyrinth, which focused on Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei. But Clark does a sterling job of covering the tricky period when scientists were the superstars of society.

Book Information
The Sensorium of God
by Stuart Clark
Published by: Polygon
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