Peter Ackroyd
Nan A. Talese, 192 pages, $21.95

Peter Ackroyd is an acclaimed and prolific British novelist, poet, dramatist, and biographer. He has written biographies about Shakespeare, Dickens, Blake, Thomas More, Oscar Wilde, Poe, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot. His history of London was a recent bestseller. His new biography of Isaac Newton follows lives of Chaucer and J. M. W. Turner.

There has been a raft of recent biographies of Newton, notably Richard Westfall’s Never at Rest. Why another one? The answer is that a brief life of Newton meets a widespread need. Longer biographies may tell you more about a person than you care to know. Although there are no new or startling revelations in Ackroyd’s book, its facts are accurate, his judgments sound, and his writing a great pleasure to read.

Isaac Newton (1643–1727) was a strange,...


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