What We Are Reading Today: Newton the Alchemist

Updated 21 November 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Newton the Alchemist

Author: William R. Newman

When Isaac Newton’s alchemical papers surfaced at a Sotheby’s auction in 1936, the quantity and seeming incoherence of the manuscripts were shocking. No longer the exemplar of Enlightenment rationality, the legendary physicist suddenly became “the last of the magicians.” Newton the Alchemist unlocks the secrets of Newton’s alchemical quest, providing a radically new understanding of the uncommon genius who probed nature at its deepest levels in pursuit of empirical knowledge.
In this evocative and superbly written book, William Newman blends in-depth analysis of newly available texts with laboratory replications of Newton’s actual experiments in alchemy. He does not justify Newton’s alchemical research as part of a religious search for God in the physical world, nor does he argue that Newton studied alchemy to learn about gravitational attraction. Newman traces the evolution of Newton’s alchemical ideas and practices over a span of more than three decades, showing how they proved fruitful in diverse scientific fields. A precise experimenter in the realm of “chymistry,” Newton put the riddles of alchemy to the test in his lab.
He also used ideas drawn from the alchemical texts to great effect in his optical experimentation. In his hands, alchemy was a tool for attaining the material benefits associated with the philosopher’s stone and an instrument for acquiring scientific knowledge of the most sophisticated kind.


What We Are Reading Today: Texas Flood

Updated 10 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Texas Flood

AUTHORS: Alan Paul & Andy Aledort

Texas Flood by Alan Paul and Andy Aledort is a phenomenal biography of guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan that hits on every level, including interviews with those closest to him.

A review in The New York Times said: “An oral history is only as good as its sources, and Texas Flood is thorough and far-reaching, with Vaughan’s bandmates, crew and family taking center stage.”  It added: “Especially fascinating is Vaughan’s complicated relationship with his older brother, Jimmie,  and Vaughan’s ill-fated role in David Bowie’s band, an apparent big break that he quit because he was told he could not promote his debut album.”

The review said: “If there’s a disappointment in the book, it’s the lack of Vaughan’s own voice. Aledort interviewed him several times during his lifetime, but since those conversations were focused on specific projects, the quotes pulled for Texas Flood don’t leave much impression. Both authors are accomplished musicians and longtime contributors to Guitar World magazine, so occasionally things get a little gear-heavy.”