William Bixby's GALILEO AND NEWTON
A book review by Dennis D. McDonald
This short Kindle book, divided into two parts, provides just enough information to help the reader understand where Galileo and Newton stand in the evolution of Western scientific thought and practice.
Part one presents Galileo’s struggled to demonstrate how, based on actual observations, the belief in an earth centered universe was fundamentally flawed. His research showed that the earth travels around the sun yet, despite his meticulous observational evidence, the academic and religious powers of the day rejected this proof.
The book spends much time recounting his academic and religious battles. We know he was eventually proved right, of course, but the challenges he faced make for somewhat depressing reading. That he persevered against such odds and continually poor health is a testament to a strong character.
Part two focuses on Isaac Newton and his role in mathematically describing how gravity works on earth and throughout at the universe. Instead of equations the book focuses on the uses of his insights by incorporating fascinating details about the role that personalities, the Royal Society, and publishing played in disseminating his findings about gravity and bodies in motion.
One interesting point, obviously intended by the author, is the distinction between how Galileo and Newton related to the religious views of the day.
In Galileo’s case he was persecuted by the Church of Rome for providing astronomical evidence counter to biblical teachings. Had he not been such a persuasive defender of his own ideas and had he not had the support of certain rich aristocrats he might have suffered a much worse fate than social and academic ostracism.
Newton faced opposition but more in terms of differences with other academicians with whom already an awareness of “being first” was a prime professional motivator. Newton’s publishing of his proofs and the subsequent use of his equations by others in locating and predicting the motion of planets and comets eventually swept away opposition to his laws of mechanics.
Toward the end of his life Newton was intensely religious and, according to the author of this book, he saw no contradiction between observational science and religion. Newton’s attitude appears to have been, according to this author, that an all-powerful god is capable of creating the universe we observe and that it’s up to us humans to figure out how the universe works.
The Kindle edition of this book ends with a nice set of photographs and a short but informative bibliography for those who want to learn more.
I enjoyed the book. Reading stuff like this always creates for me a sense of awe that humans are capable of figuring out such fundamental realities. How this process of discovery and creation works hass always fascinated me and the stories presented here are prime examples.
We take for granted such facts today but I think it’s important to realize it wasn’t always like this.
Review copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald. Dennis (email firstname.lastname@example.org phone 703-402-7382) is a management consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia. His experience includes consulting company ownership and management, database publishing and data transformation, managing the integration of large systems and databases, corporate technology strategy, social media adoption, statistical research, and IT cost analysis. His clients have included the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Engineering, General Electric, AIG, the World Bank, Whirlpool, and the National Library of Medicine. He has worked as a project manager, analyst, and researcher throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Egypt, and Hong Kong. His professional web site is here: http://www.ddmcd.com.