The book is small, only comprising 144 pages, so the writing style is brief. The book is part of the Oxford University Press "A Very Short Introduction" series of books covering not only biographies on figures such as Newton, Marx, Socrates, Descartes, Hume, Nietzsche and Buddha, it also covers historical and philosophical themes such as The Celts, Journalism, Stuart Britain, Roman Britain, Ancient Philosophy, etc., etc.
But what of the book on Newton?
We find that he was described by people who knew him as a very moral man, a man who hated and detested persecution, who loved the concept of mercy to both beast and mankind, and who was often moved to shed a tear when a sad or moving tale was related to him.
However, other people, we read, had different views of Newton. He was described as an heretic. In fact, he was thrown out of Cambridge for his allegedly heretical views.
We also read of a breakdown of some type that he suffered in the early 1690s.
The first writings on Newton were by the husband of Newton's half-niece, Catherine, John Conduitt. These put Newton in a very favourable light.
However, as is often the case, others came forward with very different versions of the life of Sir Isaac Newton.
So, was Sir Isaac Newton a saint or a sinner? A good man or a monster to people who, perhaps, he didn't agree with?
In his work, Newton a Very Short Introduction, Rob Iliffe makes a very good effort at trying to disentangle the man from the myth and to establish which, if any of the criticisms of the man actually held water.
As well as covering Newton's scientific work and research it also touches on his religious philosophies and religious researches and his role as probably one of the last great alchemists.
This book will be of very great interest and value to students who need to find out about Sir Isaac Newton and people who are interested in the biographies of great scientists of the ages.
It is priced at £6.99 ISBN978-0-19-929803-7