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The Clockwork Universe: The Amazing Story of Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and Their Scientific Revolution

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World Book Pdf

If you are interested in learning about 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, then you should read The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick. This book is a fascinating and entertaining account of how Isaac Newton, along with his fellow members of the Royal Society, revolutionized science and mathematics in the 17th century, amid a world of dirt, disease, and superstition. In this article, we will provide an overview of what this book is about, why it is important, and where you can find it online.

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, And The Birth Of The Modern World Book Pdf


The Clockwork Universe is a non-fiction book that tells the story of how science was born in a time when Europe was plagued by wars, plagues, fires, and religious conflicts. The author, Edward Dolnick, is a former science writer for The Boston Globe and a bestselling author of several books on history and science. He brings to life the personalities, achievements, and challenges of some of the greatest minds who ever lived, such as Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, John Locke, Edmund Halley, Gottfried Leibniz, and many others. He also explains how they discovered and invented some of the most fundamental concepts and tools that we take for granted today, such as calculus, gravity, optics, thermodynamics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, medicine, navigation, engineering, architecture, and more.

The book is divided into three parts: Part One: Chaos; Part Two: Hope and Monsters; Part Three: Into the Light. Each part covers a different aspect of how science emerged from chaos to hope to light. The book also includes a prologue, an epilogue, an acknowledgments section, a bibliography, and an index. The book is written in a lively and engaging style, with anecdotes, quotes, illustrations, and humor. It is also well-researched and accurate, based on primary and secondary sources. The book is suitable for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of science and the people who made it possible.

The Historical Context

The 17th century was a turbulent and violent era in European history. It was marked by the Thirty Years' War, the English Civil War, the Great Plague, the Great Fire of London, the Glorious Revolution, the French Revolution, and many other conflicts and disasters. It was also a time of religious turmoil, as different sects and factions fought for supremacy and salvation. The Catholic Church was losing its authority and credibility, as new movements such as Protestantism, Puritanism, Deism, and Atheism challenged its doctrines and dogmas. The world seemed to be falling apart, and people were looking for answers and solutions.

It was in this context that science emerged as a new way of understanding and transforming the world. Science was not a separate or isolated activity, but a part of the broader cultural and intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a period of philosophical, political, social, and artistic innovation that aimed to promote reason, freedom, tolerance, progress, and human dignity. The Enlightenment thinkers believed that human beings could use their rational faculties to discover the laws of nature and society, and to apply them for the benefit of humanity. They also believed that human beings could improve themselves and their conditions through education, reform, and revolution.

Science was one of the main expressions and achievements of the Enlightenment. Science was not only a collection of facts and theories, but a method of inquiry and experimentation that relied on observation, measurement, calculation, hypothesis, and verification. Science was also a community of practice and communication that involved collaboration, debate, publication, and recognition. Science was also a source of wonder and awe that revealed the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

The Main Characters

The book focuses on the lives and works of some of the most influential scientists of the 17th century, especially those who were associated with the Royal Society of London. The Royal Society was founded in 1660 as a voluntary association of natural philosophers who wanted to promote "the improvement of natural knowledge". It was one of the first scientific societies in history, and it played a crucial role in advancing science in Britain and beyond. The Royal Society still exists today as a prestigious institution that supports scientific research and education.

Some of the main characters of the book are:

  • Isaac Newton: He was arguably the greatest scientist of all time. He discovered the laws of motion and universal gravitation, invented calculus, built the first reflecting telescope, explained the nature of light and color, formulated the principles of alchemy and theology, and influenced almost every branch of science and mathematics.

  • Robert Hooke: He was a brilliant polymath who made contributions to physics, mechanics, optics, astronomy, geology, biology, architecture, and more. He discovered the law of elasticity (Hooke's law), coined the term "cell" to describe microscopic structures in living organisms, designed many instruments and machines, such as the air pump, the spring balance, the microscope, the barometer, etc., wrote Micrographia, one of the first illustrated books on microscopy.

  • Christopher Wren: He was a renowned architect who designed many famous buildings in London after the Great Fire of 1666. He also excelled in astronomy, mathematics, anatomy, engineering, and more. He helped found the Royal Society and served as its president. He also collaborated with Hooke on various projects, such as mapping the moon, measuring the earth's gravity, and dissecting the brain.

  • Robert Boyle: He was one of the founders of modern chemistry. He performed many experiments on gases, liquids, solids, and mixtures. He discovered Boyle's law, which relates the pressure and volume of a gas. He also wrote The Sceptical Chymist, which challenged the traditional theory of elements and proposed a new definition of chemical substances. He also explored the relationship between science and religion, and advocated for natural theology.

  • John Locke: He was one of the most influential philosophers of the Enlightenment. He wrote An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which argued that all knowledge comes from experience (tabula rasa). He also developed a theory of political liberalism that defended the rights of individuals to life, liberty, and property, and the limits of government authority. He wrote Two Treatises of Government, which justified the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and influenced the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

  • Edmund Halley: He was a famous astronomer who predicted the return of the comet that bears his name. He also made contributions to physics, mathematics, geophysics, meteorology, and navigation. He funded and edited Newton's Principia Mathematica, and helped him overcome his reluctance to publish his works. He also participated in scientific expeditions and voyages around the world.

  • Gottfried Leibniz: He was a German philosopher and mathematician who independently invented calculus and binary notation. He also developed a rationalist metaphysics based on the concept of monads, which are indivisible units of substance that have perception and purpose. He engaged in a famous correspondence and controversy with Newton over the priority and validity of their respective versions of calculus. He also wrote on logic, theology, law, politics, history, and more.

The Scientific Breakthroughs

The book describes some of the most remarkable scientific breakthroughs that occurred in the 17th century, and how they changed the way people understood and interacted with the world. Some of these breakthroughs are:

  • Calculus: This is the branch of mathematics that deals with rates of change, limits, functions, curves, areas, volumes, and more. It is essential for studying motion, dynamics, optimization, and many other phenomena in science and engineering. Both Newton and Leibniz independently discovered and developed calculus in the late 17th century, using different notations and methods. Their discovery sparked a revolution in mathematics and its applications.

  • Gravity: This is the force that attracts two masses to each other, proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their distance. Newton formulated the universal law of gravitation, which explained how gravity governs the motion of celestial bodies as well as terrestrial objects. He also showed how gravity accounts for Kepler's laws of planetary motion, which describe how planets orbit around the sun in elliptical paths. Newton's theory of gravity unified terrestrial and celestial mechanics under one mathematical framework.

  • Optics: This is the branch of physics that studies the nature and behavior of light and its interactions with matter. Newton conducted many experiments on optics, using prisms, lenses, mirrors, and telescopes. He discovered that white light is composed of different colors that can be separated by a prism and recombined by a lens. He also proposed a corpuscular theory of light, which explained reflection and refraction as the result of tiny particles of light bouncing off or passing through different media. He also improved the design of telescopes by using mirrors instead of lenses to avoid chromatic aberration.

  • Thermodynamics: This is the branch of physics that studies heat and its relation to energy, work, and temperature. Boyle performed many experiments on thermodynamics, using air pumps, thermometers, and barometers. He discovered Boyle's law, which relates the pressure and volume of a gas at constant temperature. He also introduced the concept of absolute zero, the lowest possible temperature, and speculated on the possibility of a vacuum and its effects on matter.

  • Chemistry: This is the branch of science that studies the composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter. Boyle is considered one of the founders of modern chemistry, as he rejected the Aristotelian theory of four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and proposed a new definition of chemical substances based on their atomic structure and interactions. He also performed many qualitative and quantitative analyses of various substances, such as acids, bases, salts, metals, gases, etc., and identified some chemical reactions, such as combustion, oxidation, reduction, etc.

  • Biology: This is the branch of science that studies living organisms and their functions, structures, evolution, and interactions. Hooke and others used microscopes to observe and describe the microscopic structures and processes of living things, such as cells, tissues, organs, blood, etc. They also discovered and classified many new species of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms. They also experimented with artificial insemination, transfusion, grafting, and other techniques that manipulated the reproduction and growth of living things.

  • Astronomy: This is the branch of science that studies the celestial objects and phenomena in the universe, such as stars, planets, moons, comets, etc. Newton, Halley, and others used telescopes to observe and measure the positions, motions, and properties of these objects. They also applied Newton's theory of gravity to explain and predict their orbits, eclipses, tides, etc. They also discovered and catalogued many new celestial objects, such as comets, nebulae, satellites, etc.

The Clockwork Metaphor

The book also explores the metaphor of the clockwork universe, which was a dominant worldview and philosophy in the 17th century. The clockwork metaphor implies that the universe is like a giant machine that operates according to precise and fixed laws that can be discovered and understood by human reason. The clockwork metaphor also implies that the universe is designed and created by a supreme and intelligent being (God) who set it in motion and occasionally intervenes to maintain or adjust it. The clockwork metaphor also implies that the universe is deterministic and predictable, and that human beings are subject to the same laws and forces as the rest of nature.

The clockwork metaphor influenced the scientific and philosophical thinking of the 17th century in many ways. It inspired the scientists to search for the mathematical and mechanical principles that govern the natural phenomena. It also provided a rational basis for natural theology, which argued that the order and harmony of the universe reveal the existence and attributes of God. It also supported a deist view of God, which held that God created the universe but does not interfere with its operations or with human affairs. It also challenged some of the traditional doctrines and authorities of the church, such as miracles, revelation, and divine right. It also raised some ethical and existential questions, such as the role of human free will, moral responsibility, and purpose in a mechanistic universe.

The clockwork metaphor also had some benefits and limitations as a way of understanding and interacting with the world. Some of the benefits were that it encouraged scientific inquiry, discovery, and innovation. It also fostered a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty and complexity of nature. It also promoted a rational and tolerant attitude towards different opinions and beliefs. Some of the limitations were that it ignored or neglected some aspects of reality that are not reducible to mathematics or mechanics, such as emotions, values, meanings, and spirituality. It also led to some forms of reductionism, determinism, materialism, and dehumanization. It also created some conflicts and tensions between science and religion, reason and faith, nature and culture.

The Legacy and Impact

The book concludes by examining the legacy and impact of The Clockwork Universe on modern science and history. The book argues that the 17th century was a turning point in human history, when science emerged as a powerful force that changed the world for better or worse. The book also argues that The Clockwork Universe is still relevant today, as it offers some valuable lessons and insights for contemporary challenges and opportunities.

Some of the legacy and impact of The Clockwork Universe are:

  • The foundation of modern science: The book shows how the 17th century scientists laid the groundwork for modern science by developing new methods, concepts, tools, theories, and discoveries that revolutionized every field of knowledge. The book also shows how modern science owes much to the 17th century scientists in terms of inspiration, admiration, criticism, or revision.

  • The origin of modern philosophy: The book shows how the 17th century philosophers shaped modern philosophy by addressing some of the fundamental questions about human nature, knowledge, reality, morality, politics, religion, etc. The book also shows how modern philosophy has been influenced by or has reacted to the 17th century philosophy in various ways.

of the social, economic, political, and cultural aspects of the 17th century society. The book also shows how modern society faces some similar or different challenges and opportunities as the 17th century society.

  • The inspiration for modern culture: The book shows how The Clockwork Universe has influenced and inspired many aspects of modern culture, such as literature, art, music, film, etc. The book also shows how modern culture has interpreted and represented The Clockwork Universe in various ways.


In conclusion, The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick is a captivating and enlightening book that tells the story of how science was born in a time of chaos and crisis. The book introduces us to some of the most brilliant and eccentric minds who ever lived, and how they discovered and invented some of the most fundamental concepts and tools that we use today. The book also explores the metaphor of the clockwork universe, which was a dominant worldview and philosophy in the 17th century, and how it influenced and was influenced by science, religion, society, and culture. The book also examines the legacy and impact of The Clockwork Universe on modern science, history, philosophy, society, and culture.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the history of science and the people who made it possible. The book is not only informative and accurate, but also entertaining and engaging. The book is written in a clear and accessible style, with anecdotes, quotes, illustrations, and humor. The book is also well-organized and well-researched, based on primary and secondary sources. The book is suitable for anyone who has an interest or curiosity in science and history.


Here are some frequently asked questions about The Clockwork Universe and their answers:

  • Where can I find the book pdf online?

You can find the book pdf online at various websites that offer free or paid downloads of ebooks. However, you should be careful about the quality and legality of these websites. Some of them may have low-quality or corrupted files, or may violate the copyright laws. A better option is to buy or borrow the book from a reputable source, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, Apple Books, etc.

  • Who is Edward Dolnick and what are his other works?

Edward Dolnick is an American writer, formerly a science writer at The Boston Globe. He has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, among other publications. His books include Madness on the Couch: Blaming the Victim in the Heyday of Psychoanalysis (1998), Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon (2001), The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century (2008), The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone (2010), and The Rush: America's Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848-1853 (2014).

  • What are some other books that cover similar topics or themes?

Some other books that cover similar topics or themes are:

  • The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes (2008). This book tells the story of how science inspired art and literature in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003). This book provides a humorous and accessible overview of various scientific topics and discoveries from the Big Bang to


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