Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton


Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.4 X 1.7 X 9.3 inches | 1.85 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Rob Iliffe is Professor of History at the University of Oxford. He is the General Editor of the online Newton Project and the author of Newton: A Very Short Introduction.


"This book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in learning more about Sir Isaac Newton, or about how someone with a scientific mind might approach religion....Essential."--C. Charnaswskas-Jasionowicz, CHOICE

"[W]hile other biographies acknowledge that Newton possessed a sincere, though heterodox, faith, Mr. Iliffe serves up the most complicated picture to date of the faith itself. He completely recasts the relationship of Newton's scientific inquiry to his religious beliefs, tying the two together to an unparalleled degree....Mr. Iliffe presents a syncretism in Newton's thinking that eludes simple classification....Mr. Iliffe also attends carefully to neglected periods of Newton's life, including the teen years he spent laboring in an apothecary's workshop and his stints as a Member of Parliament. Attention to such detail, woven deftly into a finely constructed and well-written narrative, makes Mr. Iliffe's 'Priest of Nature' a robust portrait with broad appeal. Both the academic and lay reader will appreciate how, in shattering the simplistic Enlightenment account of Newton, the book reveals the flexibility of the great man's capacious mind."--David Davis, Wall Street Journal

"Iliffe's outstanding contribution to our knowledge of Newton will be of considerable relevance not only to historians of science and religion, but also to anyone interested in the important topics that were debated in the late seventeenth-century Europe." -- William R. Shea, Fides et Historia

"This book is an enormous contribution to the Newton literature and the history of science in general. It examines huge numbers of sources that were, until now, essentially unknown and provides an unparalleled contextualization of the man and his work."--Science

"The author thoroughly examines Newton's religious papers, which were unpublished during the inventor's lifetime, including writings on natural theology, religious doctrine, prophesy, and heresy...Iliffe's challenging and scholarly work addresses an important and long overlooked aspect of Newton."--Library Journal

"Iliffe's fascinating study provides an absorbing glimpse into Newton's work and early modern culture."--Publishers Weekly

"For too long, historians have evaluated Isaac Newton's theological writings wholly in relation to his mathematical and natural philosophical work--first, as an embarrassing obsession, best passed over in silence; then, as a sideshow, taken up when his intellectual powers were fading; more recently, as an influence on properly scientific pursuits. Rob Iliffe knows the range of Newton's unpublished and published writings better than any other living scholar, and he gives us here a stunningly well-read, original, and provocative account of a thinker who struggled with theological matters throughout his life and whose reflections on right religion and on the sources of right knowledge emerged from the heart of his self-understanding. Priest of Nature is well titled: it radically redraws the picture of Newton we have long been offered."--Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University

"Newton wrote importantly about physics, optics, and mathematics and wrote copiously about alchemy, but he saved his most intense thoughts and passionate investigation for perfecting his theology. In Priest of Nature Rob Iliffe restores Newton to an age of political upheaval and religious anxiety, portraying him as a godly man endlessly in search of truth, prophecy, and history. Newton's lifelong struggle to combat the perceived corruption of Christianity with the tools of faith and reason comes to life in this thought-provoking and deeply researched history. A must read for any serious scholar of Newton."--Paula Findlen, Stanford University