Edward Dolnick was at Politics and Prose bookstore tonight giving a talk on his book, “The Clockwork Universe“. Engaging speaker and an interesting talk. My son Brandon also came along and he was surprised to find it interesting enough to come out of the cafe.
The author didn’t do a reading from the book; he spent about 20 minutes giving a very interesting overview of the historical period in which Newton and contemporaries lived. We sometimes forget that these geniuses were living in a very different world from ours today; one in which basic hygiene and knowledge of how the physical world worked was about non-existent. London of the time (around 1660) was a very dirty, disgusting place to live. It certainly didn’t help that the Plague hit London in 1666, and within a year 1/5 of the population were dead (100,000 people) Mr. Dolnick also touched on how the people of the time *really* thought of God as someone pulling all the strings all the time- nothing at all happened in the world that was not directly due to God’s intervention. Newton et al. very much were men of their times, and as such assumed that everything was due to God; they were merely trying to “read God’s mind” as it were.
Fascinating history of the start of the Royal Society, the oldest Scientific organization in the world. Ideas were being thrown around those meetings: one minute they would be discussing whether or not a spider placed inside a circle of “unicorn dust” could leave the circle and the next they would be discussing astronomy and the orbits of planets. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!