Christiaan Huygens – hero of time and space

This book, soaked like the Dutch Republic itself ‘in ink and paint’, is enchanting to the point of escapism. The author calls it ‘an interior journey into a world of luxury and leisure’. It is more than that. What he writes of Christiaan Huygens’s milieu is true also of his book: ‘Like a Dutch interior painting, it turns out to contain everything.’ Hugh Aldersey-Williams says that Huygens was the first modern scientist. This is a delicate argument to make: the word ‘scientist’ didn’t enter the English language before 1834. And he’s right to be sparing with such rhetoric, since a little of it goes a very long way. What inadvertent