The sweeping story of how the greatest minds of the Scientific Revolution applied their new ideas to people, money, and markets - and along the way, invented modern finance. Longlisted for the Financial Times and Mckinsey Business Book of the Year Award "An astounding episode from the early days of financial markets that to this day continues to intrigue and perplex historians...narrative history at its best, lively and fresh with new insights." (Liaquat Ahamed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance) Money for Nothing chronicles the moment when the needs of war, discoveries of natural philosophy, and ambitions of investors collided. It's about how the Scientific Revolution intertwined with finance to set England - and the world - off in an entirely new direction. At the dawn of the 18th century, England was running out of money due to a prolonged war with France. Parliament tried raising additional funds by selling debt to its citizens, taking in money now with the promise of interest later. It was the first permanent national debt, but still they needed more. They turned to the stock market - a relatively new invention itself - where Isaac Newton's new mathematics of change over time, which he applied to the motions of the planets and the natural world, were fast being applied to the world of money. What kind of future returns could a person expect on an investment today? The Scientific Revolution could help. In the hub of London's stock market - Exchange Alley - the South Sea Company hatched a scheme to turn pieces of the national debt into shares of company stock, and over the spring of 1720 the plan worked brilliantly. Stock prices doubled, doubled again, and then doubled once more, getting everyone in London from tradespeople to the Prince of Wales involved in money mania that consumed the people, press, and pocketbooks of the empire. Unlike science, though, with its tightly controlled experiments, the financial revolution was subject to trial and error on a grand scale, with dramatic, sometimes devastating consequences for people's lives. With England at war and in need of funds and "stock-jobbers" looking for any opportunity to get in on the action, this new world of finance had the potential to save the nation - but only if it didn't bankrupt it first.
©2020 Thomas Levenson (P)2020 Random House Audio
The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed For more than 50 years, the world's top scientists searched for the "missing" planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton's theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era's most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it. There was just one problem: It was never there. In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who, in 1687, provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who, almost two centuries later, built on Newton's theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system: Vulcan. It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton's theory of gravity itself. Einstein's general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the "discovery" of Vulcan in the 19th century set the stage for Einstein's monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the 20th century. A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we're taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist's sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science.
©2015 Thomas Levenson (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
In 1695, Isaac Newton, already renowned as the greatest mind of his age, made a surprising career change. He left quiet Cambridge, where he had lived for 30 years and made his earth-shattering discoveries, and moved to London to take up the post of Warden of His Majestys Mint.Newton was preceded to the city by a genius of another kind, the budding criminal William Chaloner. Thanks to his preternatural skills as a counterfeiter, Chaloner was rapidly rising in London's highly competitive underworld, at a time when organized law enforcement was all but unknown and money in the modern sense was just coming into being. Then he crossed paths with the formidable new warden.In the courts and streets of London, and amid the tremors of a world being transformed by the ideas Newton himself had set in motion, the chase was on. This astonishing tale of Isaac Newton's journey from Cambridge's ivory tower to London's underworld will appeal to fans of The Professor and the Madman.
©2009 Thomas Levenson (P)2009 Audible, Inc.