Detectives, dildos, death and more! Tom Levenson on Newton & the Counterfeiter

“It’s partly the problem of what happens when you become famous and bored.”

What sounds like a description of the latest rehab-destined movie star is instead how science writer Tom Levenson introduced me to  Sir Isaac Newton’s unexpected transition from one of the greatest scientists of his time to a detective doggedly pursuing criminals.

I interviewed Tom recently on Skeptically Speaking about his book Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist. It tells the compelling story of Newton leaving his position as Lucasian Professor at Cambridge to become Warden of the  Royal Mint. Not unexpectedly, he put his impeccable experiment skills to work improving the Mint’s production processes. More surprisingly, and reluctantly at first, he was drawn into battle with members of London’s underground working to produce fake and devalued coins.

Tom’s book shows a side of the great scientist that rarely makes it into science textbooks. Newton hauls witnesses out into the corridor for questioning. Like an early Jack McCoy, he uses every tactic he can to ensure a conviction. And in a sentence I never thought I’d write about Sir Isaac Newton: His nemesis in this business, his Moriarty if you will, got his start selling pornographic fake watches. Tom gave me a wonderful tell-all version on the show. You can find the podcast at Skeptically Speaking.


2 responses to “Detectives, dildos, death and more! Tom Levenson on Newton & the Counterfeiter”

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