Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal'd

176p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. reprods. Candlewick. Feb. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763670634.
RedReviewStarGr 6–8—Losure brings a world-renowned scientist to life. Isaac Newton's story, from his tough formative years through the end of his life, is ably told and peppered with a mix of Old English and scientific terms. Fascinating details, such as experiments with mercury that involved him tasting the poisonous element, humanize him and will keep reader interest high. Losure adeptly presents the complex subjects of chemistry, math, and physics, along with alchemy-related recipes, by breaking up the narrative with engrossing images from Newton's published and private works and other books that he used or referred to in his research. The back matter includes excerpts from Newton's journals and other contemporaneous texts and an author's note that explains how Losure researched and used these materials—an excellent addition to reinforce lessons on how to find and use primary sources.
VERDICT Losure has written a volume that both informs and excites. Highly recommended for middle school science biography sections.—Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY
In 1936, economist John Maynard Keyes bought a set of Isaac Newton's manuscripts at auction only to discover that many of the pages had nothing to do with science, but rather alchemy. Newton, Keyes reasoned, "was not the first of the age of reason…He was the last of the magicians." Indeed, Newton grew up in a world where it was very difficult to tell where one field of study ended and another began, a world where alchemy and "chymistry" (as it was then spelled) seemed to be related disciplines. Losure faithfully hews to this worldview, communicating the sense of awe and wonder about the natural world that Newton must have felt. This immersive experience is enhanced by historical documents that are reproduced throughout the text, along with several appendices of additional information. Perhaps even more impressive than her re-creation of Newton's world, however, is her re-creation of the man himself--or rather, the boy who became the man--without embellishing the historical record with speculation and conjecture. Thus, the reader is left with the bare facts of Newton's life--his difficult and troubled childhood, his prodigious talent at Cambridge, his prickly and reclusive nature, and his famous Laws of Motion--but more importantly, Losure has communicated his very essence, recalling Albert Einstein's assertion that "imagination is more important than knowledge." Source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. jonathan hunt

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