Newton and the Counterfeiter
Isaac Newton is celebrated for his part in the English scientific revolution, but it his part in the contemporary financial revolution that is the subject of this book. Newton made a surprising decision in 1695 to move to London to become Warden of His Majesty’s Mint. The country was in economic meltdown due to a shortage of ready coin driven by a criminal army of coiners and clippers and needed its most advanced mind.
There is a second genius in this story, the counterfeiter William Chaloner. The uneducated son of a weaver, Chaloner already had a successful counterfeiting business of his own but his ambitions didn’t stop there. He aimed to take on the Mint itself and that meant taking on the new Warden.
While the first part is concerned with an account of Newton’s time in Cambridge, Newton and the Counterfeiter really comes to life when the reader arrives in the courts and streets of London where the two men played out their epic battle of wits. Levenson has a terrific eye for the colourful details that bring the time and location to life and charges the narrative with the pace of a historical thriller. Recommended.
301 (UK); 336 (US)