"Isaac Newton" by Kathleen Krull Book Summary

by Daniel Francis

Author Kathleen Krull's book "Isaac Newton" was published in hardcover in 2006 and in paperback in 2008. The book was published by the Viking Children's imprint of Penguin Books. Written for an age range of 9 to 11, the paperback edition comes in at 128 pages. The book was illustrated by Boris Kuklikov. It is part of Kathleen Krull's "Giants of Science" series, which includes titles on Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Giants of Science

According to Krull in an interview with the Big Apple Book Club, a blog for young readers, her series of books about scientists is meant to interest young readers in the scientists of the past. "Isaac Newton" is the second title in her series. She first wrote about Leonardo Da Vinci, who she thought was so ahead of his time that his inventions could not be made until long after her death. She presents Isaac Newton as the first real scientist, a man who performed experiments, unlike Da Vinci, who conjured up inventions and drew them as art.

Newton's Life

Krull uses a gossipy, casual tone to reconstruct Newton's life, and in the process reveals his dreadful childhood. His mother remarried and her new husband did not want Isaac around. Eventually young Isaac was sent to live with his grandparents. His early isolation may have led to his withdrawal from an active social life and into the internal world of his imagination. His personal loss became the world's gain as his vivid imagination and extreme intelligence changed the world.

Newton's Complexities

For all his brilliance, Isaac Newton as revealed by Krull was a complicated character. Other words to describe him were unconventional, unhappy, unfriendly, obsessive, secretive, withdrawn, jealous and vindictive. Newton was so small-minded that he set out to destroy other scientists who dared question his findings, and once held back from publishing his own results to an experiment until a competitor was dead. Krull spends a chapter exploring Newton's possible homosexuality. She also exposes his desire to get the best education he could in spite of an outbreak of the plague. Generally, she seeks to show that the brilliance that this man left behind came at the cost of his personal happiness, and that he may have suffered from what we today call depression.

Newton's Importance

The book ends by presenting the importance of Isaac Newton. His impact on the future of science is so important that some call him the father of science. Newton invented calculus and conducted scientific experiments throughout his life. He theorized about gravity, and then performed experiments to prove its existence. This way of theorizing and then proving through experimentation is the way all scientists have made discoveries since Newton's time. The fact that Newton was doing so in the 1600s during the time of the great plague is something that the author uses to solidify his genius.

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