Skip to content

Newton and the Counterfeiter

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Book review by David Reuben Grech

Detective stories are exhilarating. There’s no argument against it. The recent resurgence in Sherlock Holmes’ popularity peaked with TV programmes like Sherlock and Elementary. However, the problem with these stories, some might say, is that they are quite adept at stretching the truth when it comes to certain practices in forensic science and cybersecurity. If you are one of those people looking for a fictional detective story with solid roots in reality, look no further than Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist by author and documentary-maker Thomas Levenson.

Isaac Newton was a revolutionary in modern physics, a man famous for his theories on gravity and the laws of motion. He then turned 26. And boredom reigned. So what did he do for some mental stimulation? He became the new Warden of the Royal Mint.

Levenson recounts the journey of Newton from his humble beginnings as a rather incompetent sheep herder to the final days of his life, taking time to focus on his stint as Warden of the Royal Mint in London. The author sets the stage, explaining that the British currency is in crisis, held hostage by counterfeiters pumping an unprecedented number of fake coins into circulation. Despite initial hesitance, Newton eventually sets off on a mission to hunt down the people responsible.

The book’s title refers to ‘the Counterfeiter’, Newton’s main antagonist by the name of William Chaloner. Levinson does an excellent job of humanising the antagonist, taking the reader on a journey into his past. We see Chaloner using his brilliance to rise from the ashes of poverty and build his own empire as one of London’s most prominent counterfeiters. Newton and Chaloner’s clash is tantalising, with the two engaged in an intricate game of wit. The struggle between them is exhilarating, with both utilising their influential ranks in society to one-up the other.

This book’s primary selling point is its look into Newton’s story as a detective, a relatively unknown part of the famous scientist’s life. Apart from this, the book has a captivating narrative and it definitely deserves a spot on your reading list. 


More to Explore

Preserving the Past: UM Library’s Digitisation of Centuries-old Pamphlets

The University of Malta’s Library has diligently digitised historical pamphlets, some dating as far back as the 1600s, allowing students and researchers to explore battles, cultural shifts, and more through primary sources. THINK speaks with library manager Antida Mizzi to explore the commitment to safeguarding history, making it accessible for researchers and scholars dedicated to unearthing the stories that define us.

Fostering Creativity and Community: The ART Connect Project at the University of Malta Library

Discover how the University of Malta Library is not just a repository of knowledge, but a hub of creativity and collaboration. The ART Connect Project infuses art into this academic space, bringing vibrancy and engagement to its community. In this article, delve into the initiative’s aspirations, the fostering of a holistic environment, and the transformative power of artistic expression within the university setting.

Meeting Challenges Halfway at the Malta Book Festival 2023

Delve into Malta’s burgeoning book scene, boasting 58 publishing entities and a wealth of authors. Uncover the challenges and endeavours championed by the National Book Council. Join us at the Malta Book Festival from October 18-22 at MFCC, Ta’ Qali, for an exciting literary voyage.

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment