Reviews, articles and interviews

Q&A on Waterworld as NEH Public Scholar

What is the book you are writing with NEH support about? My book tells a 150-year history of how scientists have studied the waters of the globe, the oceans, glaciers and atmospheric vapor that govern our planet’s climate. It’s a journey through time and space with a motley crew of physicists, oceanographers, meteorologists and glaciologists that ranges far and wide, from the Greenland ice sheet to a mountain top in Tenerife to a patch of swirling water in the middle of the Atlantic and beyond.

Tell us the first thing you did when you learned you received an NEH Public Scholar grant. It was very early in the morning on a Saturday and was the last thing I was expecting. I ran downstairs to tell my husband, who was making coffee, and gave him a big kiss.

Read the whole interview here

In the archives with Newton’s ink

A breathless interview with Steve Paulson, of To The Best Of Our Knowledge, in the presence of Newton’s manuscripts at the Cambridge University Library.

If you really want to get a feel for Isaac Newton – perhaps history’s greatest scientist – the best way is to see his original manuscripts at Cambridge University Library. But they’re so valuable, it’s hard to get permission to look at them. They did let Steve Paulson in, but only in the company of 4 archivists, plus historian Sarah Dry.

Barometers in beautiful places

Interviewed on location in Clovelly, Devon and the British Telecom Archives, Holborn, on the history of Robert FitzRoy’s pioneering weather forecasting for “Storm Troupers: The Fight to Forecast the Weather,” a KEO North production, originally aired on BBC 4, May 23, 2016. Not yet available on BBC iplayer. Reviewed in the Guardian here.


The Strange, Secret History of Isaac Newton’s Papers – An Author Interview in Wired

WIRED: Why did you decide to trace what happened to Isaac Newton’s papers?

Sarah Dry: In the history of science there is no greater figure than Newton. He was this shining emblem of Enlightenment rationality. If you ask people to name a scientist they’re going to say Newton, Einstein, or Darwin. So he’s become an icon, both more and less than human.

But there’s always been a great mystery surrounding him. You tell people you’re working on Newton and they say, “Oh yeah, wasn’t he an alchemist?” And it makes them feel like they know something that changes our ideas about this great man. I think there’s a real draw to sort of have this cake and eat it too – to have this super rationalist saint, and also his secret obsessions.

Read the complete interview here.

The Private Life of Isaac Newton–A talk at the Royal Society, September 20, 2014.

and an accompanying podcast interview with me (starting at 1:30).


A review in the Times Literary Supplement by Arnold Hunt (7 Nov 2014): “What could have been a narrow study of changing fashions in book collecting becomes, in Dry’s skillful telling of the tale, a study of Newton’s evolving reputation and the rise of a new academic discipline, the history of science.” Dry “succeeds in making the dispersal of an archive seems an event as momentous as Philip Larkin’s lines on death, when ‘the bits that were you/Start speeding away from each other forever.’ ”

A full-length review in The Times Higher Education Supplement, by Robyn Arianrhod (9 Oct 2014).

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And a short review in The Times Higher Education Supplement, by Graham Farmelo (11 Sept 2014) in which he describes it as ‘pure joy.’

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Two reviews of the book have been published in Italian newspapers, one in Corriere de la sera (5 Oct 2014) which identifies a ‘touch of Borges’ in the odyssey of the papers, the other in Il Sole 24 Ore (2 Nov 2014), which begins with the lovely phrase ‘Un visconte squattrinato’ to describe the hard-up Earl who ultimately sold the papers.

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The audio recording of my talk ‘The Private Life of Isaac Newton,’ given at the Royal Society during its Open House weekend (20 September 2014).

Review by Stuart Kelly in Scotland on Sunday (20 July 2014): The Newton Papers
‘Dry tracks the pages, not the mind of Newton, and finds ample anecdotes along the way to make this bibliographic thriller a delight to read.’
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My guest post on The H Word blog at the Guardian (8 July 2014): The Private Lives of Isaac Newton
‘As we click effortlessly between this vast range of online documents, it’s easy to lose sight of the boundary between the private and the public, a border of which Newton was exceedingly, almost paranoically, aware.’

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My article in the 2014 Gates Cambridge Scholar magazine (7 July 2014): Newton’s Private Ink
‘Newton’s proud words–“with this ink new made I wrote this”–remain dark and vivid some 350 years after he wrote them.’
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My guest post on OUPblog (6 July 2014): True or False? Ten Myths about Isaac Newton
‘Myth 5: Newton found secret numerological codes in the Bible.’

My guest post on the Gates Cambridge Scholars Huffington Post blog (23 June 2014): The Public and Private Isaac Newton
‘Newton’s attitude towards publication is one thread that can be used to stitch the archive together, should we wish to do so.’
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Review in The Economist (20 June 2014): Magician’s brain
‘Sarah Dry’s engaging book, “The Newton Papers”, traces what happened to Newton’s unpublished manuscripts after his death…The truth is that Newton was very much a man of his time.’

How far will Amazon go?, The Economist cover 21st June 2014

Review in the Literary Review (1 June 2014): Last of the Magicians
David Bodanis called The Newton Papers ‘a fascinating tale.’

Review in the Wall Street Journal (23 May 2014): A Reputation in Constant Motion
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Author Q and A at Wired (14 May 2014): The Strange, Secret History of Isaac Newton’s Papers
“You will feel overwhelmed and confused.”


Extract at Tablet (5 May 2014): Saving Isaac Newton: How a Jewish Collector Brought the Physicist’s Papers to America
“In some parts of the manuscripts, Newton himself had concluded that ‘Jehovah’ is the unique god.”

Review in Nature (1 May 2014): Science biography: A voyage round Newton
“Sarah Dry is to be congratulated for furnishing us with a fresh and readable chronicle of the tortuous route that Newton’s manuscript took to being made public”. So writes Mordechai Feingold this week, savouring a study on how the fitful release of the scientist’s papers shaped his reputation.






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