Out on 03 September 2020

Dutch Light

Hugh Aldersey-Williams

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03 September 2020
0 pages

Filled with incident, discovery, and revelation, Dutch Light is a vivid account of Christiaan Huygens’s remarkable life and career, but it is also nothing less than the story of the birth of modern science as we know it.

Europe’s greatest scientist during the latter half of the seventeenth century, Christiaan Huygens was a true polymath. A towering figure in the fields of astronomy, optics, mechanics, and mathematics, many of his innovations in methodology, optics and timekeeping remain in use to this day. Among his many achievements, he developed the theory of light travelling as a wave, invented the mechanism for the pendulum clock, and discovered the rings of Saturn – via a telescope that he had also invented.

A man of fashion and culture, Christiaan came from a family of multi-talented individuals whose circle included not only leading figures of Dutch society, but also artists and philosophers such as Rembrandt, Locke and Descartes. The Huygens family and their contemporaries would become key actors in the Dutch Golden Age, a time of unprecedented intellectual expansion within the Netherlands. Set against a backdrop of worldwide religious and political turmoil, this febrile period was defined by danger, luxury and leisure, but also curiosity, purpose, and tremendous possibility.

Following in Huygens’s footsteps as he navigates this era while shuttling opportunistically between countries and scientific disciplines, Hugh Aldersey-Williams builds a compelling case to reclaim Huygens from the margins of history and acknowledge him as one of our most important and influential scientific figures.

Fascinating . . . an impressive piece of scholarship. I learned a lot

John Gribbin, author of Six Impossible Things and In Search of Schrödinger's Cat

At last – a scintillating biography of Christiaan Huygens, the Dutch mathematician, astronomer and inventor whose splendour has been unjustly eclipsed by the aura of Isaac Newton. After scouring archives, art galleries and museums in both the Netherlands and the UK, Hugh Aldersley-Williams has evocatively illuminated this brilliant polymath who laid the foundations of modern European science.

Dr Patricia Fara, Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge.