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Newton's Tyranny: The Suppressed Scientific Discoveries of John Flamsteed and Stephen Gray 
By David H. Clark & Stephen P.H. Clark

Reviewed by Joseph M. Giardiello

The darker side of a great scientific mind

The Clarks make no bones about it: Sir Issac Newton was one of the greatest scientific minds of the his time. Of all time, in fact. Newton was the symbol of the triumph of science over superstition.

But Newton had a darker side. Despite the fame and recognition he had received, Newton refused to let anyone threaten to overshadow him or stand in his way of greater achievements.

Reverend John Flamsteed was the first Astronomer Royal - a position he held for 44 years serving under 6 kings. He spent his night in the observatory of Greenwich gazing through telescopes, cataloguing the stars. Newton wanted this information to figure out a better way to navigate to oceans, a major problem in his day. He was convinced Flamsteed was holding back the critical information he needed. For that, Newton used all the considerable power at his disposal to end the career of Flamsteed. He almost succeeded. It was only because of the dedication of Flamsteed's widow that his 3-volumn Historia Coelestis Britannica was published.

Today, because of Flamsteed's work, we measure longitude from the place he accomplished his work - Greenwich.

The work of Stephen Gray is less known. A commoner trained as a dyer, he was a most unlikely member of the Royal Society.

Gray was a long time friend of Flamsteed. He carried on a regular correspondence with the elder scientist, sharing with him his own celestial observations.

But it was Gray's pioneering work in using electricity for communications that earned him immortality. Work, that if not for Newton, may have been accomplished 20 years sooner.







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