17th Century: Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

His scientific search for a grand design in the universe overturned ancient assumptions

Standing in an unstable universe where distances contract and clocks slow down, and time and space are plastic, Albert Einstein cast a wistful backward glance at Isaac Newton. "Fortunate Newton, happy childhood of science!" he wrote. "Nature to him was an open book, whose letters he could read without effort."

A child's first tasks are to walk and talk and understand his little universe. Newton, the 17th century's formidable prodigy, simply enlarged the project. The first of his family of Lincolnshire yeomen to be able to write his name, Newton grew into a touchy, passionately focused introvert who could go without...

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