No of pages: 336
Other Editions: Hardback
Newton and the Counterfeiter
A scientific detective story of greed and revenge: the unknown Newton
After he had become the most famous scientist in Europe for his theories of planetary motion and gravity, Isaac Newton felt he had a right to earn more serious money than a college Fellow could ever make.
He left his sheltered rooms in Cambridge University and accepted the job of running the Royal Mint. This was no sinecure: England’s currency was in crisis. No one had faith in it. The nation’s entire stock of coins was recalled and new ones issued, a mammoth task that Newton carried out with incredible precision. He spent the last years of his life dealing with money and manufacturing it, speculating with it and losing it.
At the Mint he had extraordinary powers as the defender of the King’s currency. Counterfeiting was a crime that the law equated with treason, and it was Newton’s job to hunt down those who faked His Majesty’s coins. Newton was drawn into a deadly struggle with the most skilful counterfeiter of the age, Thomas Chaloner. Here was a man who not only got away with passing dud money but accused Newton of incompetence, and tried to ease him out of the Mint so that he could take it over. Chaloner wrote pamphlets denouncing Newton’s stewardship and taunting him; he was even given a hearing by Parliament.
But Chaloner had no idea who he was taking on. Newton pursued his enemy with the cold, implacable logic that he brought to his scientific research.
Their struggle was given a strange twist because Newton had for years been obsessed with alchemy, a secret search to turn base metal into gold, which many saw as a crime against divine and human law.
Levenson sets this dark tale against the backdrop of early eighteenth century London with its sewers running down the middle of the streets, its packed houses, smoke and fog, and its great port, into which ships were sailing with all the wealth of the world. This is a compelling book about crime, science and money, and transforms our image of Britain’s greatest scientist.
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