Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton
James Gleick

Newton isn’t a figure to warm to, and the marble index of his face is hard to get behind. Like a lot of intensely private people, once you break through the shell you find there’s little that was worth the effort. A genius to be sure, but also paranoid, misanthropic, selfish, and arrogant. The kind of guy who would keep on with his alchemical experiments out of sheer . . . what? Lust for gold that he would only hoard anyway?

Well, a lot of towering artists were monsters too, and Yeats thought great works were only created out of bitterness. It’s curious how often greatness of mind actually creates bitterness in a man, as though through operation of a psychological law. A law Newton might have understood, but felt not worth the writing down.