Tidbit Thursday: Sir Isaac Newton and the Apple Tree
On a warm summer day, in 1666, Isaac Newton sat under the shade of an apple tree at his home, Woolsthorpe Manor, in England. He liked to think about the universe, and on this day, his thoughts focused on the way objects move. Why does the Moon circle the Earth and never fall onto it? Questions like this fascinated the young Newton.
Suddenly, from a branch above his head, an apple fell. With a bonk, it smacked Isaac on the head.
“Ouch,” he exclaimed, rubbing his head. He picked up the apple, looked up at the tree, and said, “Hmmm. Why did this apple, just like all other objects, fall straight down to the Earth? Why didn’t it fall sideways or in a crooked path?”
It was at this moment, according to history, that Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravitational attraction between two objects. A theory that would revolutionize science.
Of course, we don’t know if Newton really said those words that day. Bud did this event even really happen, or is this an imaginary legend that has been passed down through the centuries?
In 2010, the Royal Society of London released the original manuscript that recounts the story as told to William Stukeley, Newton’s first biographer. In 1726, when Sir Isaac Newton was an older gentleman, he and the young Stukeley, sat under an apple tree in London, talking about Newton’s life. It was a warm day, very similar, said Sir Newton, to the day when an apple fell from the tree at Woolsthorpe Manor. He told Stukeley that the fall of the apple caused him to think about the force of attraction between two objects. Years later, he developed his theory.
So, even though Newton probably was not smacked directly on the head by the apple, the incident has some credibility based on this document.
Today, people can visit the original apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, where it has been designated as one of 50 great trees in Great Britain.
For further information, you can read:
Enjoy the day! Get outside and look for examples of gravity at work.