In the Newton Archives

October 30, 2015

M R via Flickr Creative Commons

If you really want to get a feel for Isaac Newton - perhaps history's greatest scientist - the best way is to see his original manuscripts at Cambridge University Library. But they're so valuable, it's hard to get permission to look at them. They did let Steve Paulson in, but only in the company of 4 archivists, plus historian Sarah Dry.



Before "Cosmos" there was the landmark 1973 BBC series "The Ascent of Man," by Dr. Jacob Bronowski (specifically commissioned to compliment Lord Kenneth Clark's 1969 BBC series "Civilization").

In Episode 7, "The Majestic Clockwork," Bronowski discusses both Newton and Einstein, laced with several charming anecdotes. Though perhaps a bit dated by today's standards, it remains nonetheless a very worthwhile fifty minutes (Episode 6, "The Starry Messenger," is about Galileo, and its ending segues beautifully with the beginning of Episode 7).

The entire 13-part series remains essential viewing by anyone with even a passing interest in science (and history), and the last DVD version released is an excellent transfer of the exclusively on-location filming (literally around the world). It should be available through one's library (the book of the same name, with numerous photos and illustrations, is a virtual transcript of Bronowski's words, which were spoken extemporaneously -- not read from a script). One can read the numerous (and overwhelmingly positive) reviews at the series' site.