My new book is Dutch Light: Christiaan Huygens and the Making of Science in Europe, published by Picador in September 2020.
Christiaan Huygens was the greatest scientist working in the vital period between Galileo and Newton, as the scientific revolution gathered pace. He discovered Saturn’s ring, invented the accurate pendulum clock, and devised a wave theory of light far ahead of its time.
More even than Newton, he can be called the father of modern science. He dedicated himself to the sciences, both pure and applied, and was not distracted from his course by pseudoscientific quests or theological debates. He combined observational prowess and technical skills with rigorous mathematical analysis, introducing the use of mathematical formulae to describe problems in physics, which is the basis of all modern science.
He was also a crucial figure in shaping science as an international pursuit that transcends borders. ‘The world is my country, science my religion,’ he once said. At a time when some would raise barriers to international cooperation, his is a mission we need to remember and hold close to our hearts.