Einstein on Newton

The other day while flipping through some books in my library I noticed that my copy of Isaac Newton’s Optics has a foreward written by Albert Einstein.  It’s a 1950’s edition I purchased from Abe Books.com.  I  continually find treasures within treasures at used book shops, this being no exception.  Einstein on Newton, fantastic!  I’ll share with you:


“Fortunate Newton, happy childhood of science!  He who has time and tranquility can by reading this book live again the wonderful events which the great Newton experienced in his young days.  Nature to him was an open book, whose letters he could read without effort.  The conceptions which he used to reduce the material experience to order seemed to flow spontaneously from experience itself, from the beautiful experiments which he ranged in order like playthings and describes what an affectionate wealth of detail.  In one person he combined the experimenter, the theorist, one mechanic and, not least, the artist in exposition.  He stands before us strong, certain, and alone:  his joy in creation and his minute precision are evident in every word and every figure.

“Reflexion, refraction, the formation of images by the lenses, the mode of operation of the eye, the spectral decomposition of the different kinds of light, the invention of the reflecting telescope, the first foundations of colour theory, the elementary theory of the rainbow pass by us in procession, and finally come his observations of the colours of thin films as the origin of the next great theoretical advance, which had to wait, over a hundred years, the coming of Thomas Young.

“Newton’s age has long since passed through the sieve of oblivion, the doubtful striving and suffering of his generation has vanished from out ken; the works of some few great thinkers and artists have remained, to delight and ennoble us and those who come after us.  Newton’s discoveries have passed into the stock of accepted knowledge:  this new edition of his work on optics is nevertheless to be welcomed with the warmest thanks, because it alone can afford us the enjoyment of a look at the personal activity of this unique man.”


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