Traveling with Isaac Newton
by Barbara ten Brink
Dorrance Publishing Company

"I was so thrilled to see an apple at least 90 feet from us appear to be 30 feet from us. How was it possible?"

Emma is a young English girl who lives not far from the brilliant scientist, Isaac Newton. Through his informal tutelage, she is constantly learning intriguing new things about the world. When the story opens, she has exciting news: her father, a commanding officer in the Royal Navy, is coming home, and her family will be going to the dock at Portsmouth to meet him. Her mother has cordially invited Newton to accompany them, and he gladly accepts. Then he and Emma head to the garden, where he introduces her to his telescope and astrolabe. He then invites her to use the telescope. She is amazed at what she can see. While they share glimpses at an apple hanging from a faraway tree, it falls to the ground, and suddenly Newton is seized with "an amazing thought" and returns to his lab.

On the journey to Portsmouth by horse-drawn carriages, Newton keeps Emma occupied with an assignment—information gathering. How far away is Portsmouth? How many hours will they travel? How then can she calculate the speed and hourly rate of the trip? In addition, she makes maps of the features seen along the way. Once they arrive on the beach near the landing dock, Emma's brother, attending the British Naval Academy, meets them. Emma's mother will be joining her father as a dignitary on board his ship. Fortunately, though they are some distance away, Emma is able to watch all of the proceedings through Newton's telescope. She sees the ships coming over the far horizon and watches in fascination as cannonballs are fired, seeing the smoke two seconds before she hears the sound. Then she wonders: if the cannonballs were fired straight out, why did they then fall into the sea? Emma is becoming a scientist.

This appealing and science-laden fictional work is the charming creation of an experienced science instructor with many academic and other credits garnered in her long career. Basing this book around the life and writings of Newton, ten Brink makes his thinking processes and discoveries come to life for a new, young generation. Taking her innovative teaching to yet another level, she asks readers in her "Author's Notes" to consider certain aspects of the tale further, such as education of girls, transportation in carriages, the creation of maps, clock mechanisms and timekeeping, and careers in the Royal Navy. She invites them to imagine and draw Emma's fashions, construct her family tree, or illustrate "the sailors' lives aboard a ship." She then helpfully suggests that they coordinate with a teacher to build their own telescope or astrolabe, demonstrate Newton's Three Laws of Motion, and draw the Fibonacci number sequence mentioned in the narrative. She points out that she has not used any modern slang, keeping Emma's thoughts and conversation couched in the language of her time. Clearly meant to provoke interest and further, tangible reaction in the form of drawings and stories by her youthful readership, ten Brink's book can be used as a structured, actively engaging teaching tool in the areas of science, mathematics, culture, and history.

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