Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist

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A “thoroughly surprising” chapter in the life of Isaac Newton, with a “vivid re-creation of 17th-century London and its fascinating criminal haunts” (Providence Journal).

When renowned scientist Isaac Newton takes up the post of Warden of His Majesty’s Mint in London, another kind of genius—a preternaturally gifted counterfeiter named William Chaloner—has already taken up residence in the city, rising quickly in an unruly, competitive underworld. In the courts and streets of London, and amid the tremors of a world being transformed by ideas Newton himself set in motion, Chaloner crosses paths with the formidable new warden.
 
An epic game of cat and mouse ensues in Newton and the Counterfeiter, revealing for the first time the “remarkable and true tale of the only criminal investigator who was far, far brainier than even Sherlock Holmes: Sir Isaac Newton during his tenure as Warden of the Royal Mint . . . A fascinating saga” (Walter Isaacson).
 
“I absolutely loved Newton and the Counterfeiter. Deft, witty and exhaustively researched.” —Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
 
“A delicious read, featuring brilliant detective work and a captivating story . . . A virtuoso performance.” —Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
 
“Through a page-turning narrative, we witness Isaac Newton’s genius grappling with the darker sides of human nature, an all too human journey reflecting his deepest beliefs about the cosmic order.” —Brian Greene, author of The Fabric of the Cosmos
 
“Levenson transforms inflation and metallurgy into a suspenseful detective story bolstered by an eloquent summary of Newtonian physics and stomach-turning descriptions of prison life in the Tower of London. . . . [The book] humanizes a legend, transforming him into a Sherlock Holmes in pursuit of his own private Moriarty.” —The Washington Post
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About the author

Thomas Levenson is professor of science writing at MIT and the author of five books: Einstein in Berlin, Measure for Measure, Ice Time, Newton and the Counterfeiter, and The Hunt for Vulcan. He is also the producer of ten documentaries, for which he has won numerous awards.
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Apr 12, 2010
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780547416618
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
History / Europe / Great Britain / Stuart Era (1603-1714)
True Crime / White Collar Crime
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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In a book that is both biography and the most exciting form of history, here are eighteen years in the life of a man, Albert Einstein, and a city, Berlin, that were in many ways the defining years of the twentieth century.

Einstein in Berlin

In the spring of 1913 two of the giants of modern science traveled to Zurich. Their mission: to offer the most prestigious position in the very center of European scientific life to a man who had just six years before been a mere patent clerk. Albert Einstein accepted, arriving in Berlin in March 1914 to take up his new post. In December 1932 he left Berlin forever. “Take a good look,” he said to his wife as they walked away from their house. “You will never see it again.”

In between, Einstein’s Berlin years capture in microcosm the odyssey of the twentieth century. It is a century that opens with extravagant hopes--and climaxes in unparalleled calamity. These are tumultuous times, seen through the life of one man who is at once witness to and architect of his day--and ours. He is present at the events that will shape the journey from the commencement of the Great War to the rumblings of the next one.

We begin with the eminent scientist, already widely recognized for his special theory of relativity. His personal life is in turmoil, with his marriage collapsing, an affair under way. Within two years of his arrival in Berlin he makes one of the landmark discoveries of all time: a new theory of gravity--and before long is transformed into the first international pop star of science. He flourishes during a war he hates, and serves as an instrument of reconciliation in the early months of the peace; he becomes first a symbol of the hope of reason, then a focus for the rage and madness of the right.

And throughout these years Berlin is an equal character, with its astonishing eruption of revolutionary pathways in art and architecture, in music, theater, and literature. Its wild street life and sexual excesses are notorious. But with the debacle of the depression and Hitler’s growing power, Berlin will be transformed, until by the end of 1932 it is no longer a safe home for Einstein. Once a hero, now vilified not only as the perpetrator of “Jewish physics” but as the preeminent symbol of all that the Nazis loathe, he knows it is time to leave.
The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed

For more than fifty years, the world’s top scientists searched for the “missing” planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era’s most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it.

There was just one problem: It was never there.

In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who almost two centuries later built on Newton’s theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, Vulcan.

It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton’s theory of gravity itself. Einstein’s general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist, and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the “discovery” of Vulcan in the nineteenth century set the stage for Einstein’s monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the twentieth century.

A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we’re taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist’s sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science.

Praise for The Hunt for Vulcan

“Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of Levenson’s writing makes it almost novelistic.”—The Washington Post
 
“A well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed

For more than fifty years, the world’s top scientists searched for the “missing” planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era’s most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it.

There was just one problem: It was never there.

In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who almost two centuries later built on Newton’s theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, Vulcan.

It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton’s theory of gravity itself. Einstein’s general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist, and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the “discovery” of Vulcan in the nineteenth century set the stage for Einstein’s monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the twentieth century.

A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we’re taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist’s sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science.

Praise for The Hunt for Vulcan

“Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of Levenson’s writing makes it almost novelistic.”—The Washington Post
 
“A well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
«En el caso de Newton y el falsificador, las complejas explicaciones sobre la economía inglesa de la época se alternan con los cuadros narrativos que presentan a Newton moviéndose por callejones oscuros e interrogando a presos. Tras este viaje por las cárceles del Londres de finales del XVII, el lector termina convencido de que si el genio inglés siguiera vivo no harían falta máquinas para detectar billetes falsos.» Javier Fresán

Después de treinta años como profesor en Cambridge, y habiendo culminado ya su carrera científica, en 1696 Isaac Newton aceptó el cargo de intendente de la Real Casa de la Moneda en Londres, a pesar de no tener la menor experiencia en este campo.

En un momento en que la guerra contra Francia estaba desangrando el Tesoro británico, era importante contar con una moneda firme y a tal efecto el primer enemigo a combatir eran los falsificadores. Newton descubrió, en efecto, que una de cada diez monedas que circulaban era falsa.

En plena crisis económica, rodeado de especuladores y funcionarios incompetentes y corruptos, tuvo que hacer frente además a un enemigo muy particular: William Chaloner, que, antes de dedicarse a la falsificación a gran escala, había sido fabricante de juguetes eróticos, curandero, vidente, delator profesional, aprendiz de orfebre y de grabador. Chaloner era un farsante nato que escribía panfletos contra los falsificadores y representaba su papel de ciudadano honrado denunciando la dejadez de la Casa de la Moneda.

En Newton y el falsificador, Thomas Levenson reconstruye el duelo entre estos dos hombres de un modo apasionante, combinando la divulgación histórica y científica con la narración criminal y descubriéndonos la faceta desconocida de Newton como detective.

In a book that is both biography and the most exciting form of history, here are eighteen years in the life of a man, Albert Einstein, and a city, Berlin, that were in many ways the defining years of the twentieth century.

Einstein in Berlin

In the spring of 1913 two of the giants of modern science traveled to Zurich. Their mission: to offer the most prestigious position in the very center of European scientific life to a man who had just six years before been a mere patent clerk. Albert Einstein accepted, arriving in Berlin in March 1914 to take up his new post. In December 1932 he left Berlin forever. “Take a good look,” he said to his wife as they walked away from their house. “You will never see it again.”

In between, Einstein’s Berlin years capture in microcosm the odyssey of the twentieth century. It is a century that opens with extravagant hopes--and climaxes in unparalleled calamity. These are tumultuous times, seen through the life of one man who is at once witness to and architect of his day--and ours. He is present at the events that will shape the journey from the commencement of the Great War to the rumblings of the next one.

We begin with the eminent scientist, already widely recognized for his special theory of relativity. His personal life is in turmoil, with his marriage collapsing, an affair under way. Within two years of his arrival in Berlin he makes one of the landmark discoveries of all time: a new theory of gravity--and before long is transformed into the first international pop star of science. He flourishes during a war he hates, and serves as an instrument of reconciliation in the early months of the peace; he becomes first a symbol of the hope of reason, then a focus for the rage and madness of the right.

And throughout these years Berlin is an equal character, with its astonishing eruption of revolutionary pathways in art and architecture, in music, theater, and literature. Its wild street life and sexual excesses are notorious. But with the debacle of the depression and Hitler’s growing power, Berlin will be transformed, until by the end of 1932 it is no longer a safe home for Einstein. Once a hero, now vilified not only as the perpetrator of “Jewish physics” but as the preeminent symbol of all that the Nazis loathe, he knows it is time to leave.
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