Newton and the Counterfeiter - Thomas Levenson

WE learned at school about Sir Isaac Newton s theories of gravity – thanks to the falling apple – and planetary motion, but I, for one, did not know he took on the job of running the Royal Mint and virtually saved Britain s currency. He also turned detect

WE learned at school about Sir Isaac Newton's theories of gravity - thanks to the falling apple - and planetary motion, but I, for one, did not know he took on the job of running the Royal Mint and virtually saved Britain's currency.

He also turned detective to catch the counterfeiters, and in particular, the most notorious and skilful of them all.

Newton and the Counterfeiter (�20, Faber and Faber) by Thomas Levenson tells an extraordinary chapter in an extraordinary life.

Part biography, part mystery adventure, it shows how Newton put his genius to work to capture a master criminal who was bringing the country to its knees.

The first half of the book is a biography, and a chance to brush up on your knowledge of a science legend, who changed the way we view nature, and believed in alchemy and spent years trying to make gold.

He played a role in bringing William of Orange to the British throne in 1689, his studies at Cambridge University were interrupted by the Great Plague, and he was a friend of Edmond Halley (after whom the comet was named).

Most Read

The second half follows Newton's appointment to the Royal Mint and his pursuit of master forger William Chaloner, who had been faking His Majesty's coins - in law, treason and punishable by death - but was trying to take over the Mint.

The cold, implacable logic which Newton displayed in his scientific research was brought to bear on the new challenge. He set up a private police force of agents who infiltrated counterfeiting gangs, 130 years before Robert Peel set up the world's first modern police force.

Levenson brings the 18th century and its characters to life and the battle of wits between the two protagonists is as gripping as any thriller.

- LINDSAY JONES

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter