Newton's 'apple story' online

2010-01-18 09:25

London - An 18th-century account of how a falling piece of fruit helped Isaac Newton develop the theory of gravity is being posted to the web, making scans of the fragile paper manuscript widely available to the public for the first time.

Newton's encounter with an apple ranks among science's most celebrated anecdotes, and Britain's Royal Society said it was making the documents available online on Monday.

Royal Society librarian Keith Moore said the apple story has managed to keep its polish in part because it packs in so much - an illustration of how modern science works, an implicit reference to the solar system and even an allusion to the Bible.

When Newton describes the process of observing a falling apple and guessing at the principle behind it "he's talking about the scientific method", Moore said.

"Also the shape of the apple recalls the planet - it's round - and of course the apple falling from the tree does indeed hark back to the story of Adam and Eve, and Newton as a religious man would have found that quite apt."

Tea in the shade

The incident occurred in the mid-1660s, when Newton retreated to his family home in northern England after an outbreak of the plague closed the University of Cambridge, where he had been studying.

The Royal Society's manuscript, written by Newton's contemporary William Stukeley, recounts a spring afternoon in 1726 when the famous scientist shared the story over tea "under the shade of some apple trees".

"He told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind," Stukeley wrote.

"It was occasion'd by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself ... Why should it not go sideways, or upwards? But constantly to the earth's centre? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter."

Stukeley's account joins the long-lost notes of Newton's 17th-century scientific rival Robert Hooke on the Royal Society's website.

Users can flip through both documents using the same page-turning software used to browse Leonardo's sketches and Jane Austen's early work on the British Library's site.

The Royal Society is an academy of scientists founded in 1660 to gather, discuss and spread scientific knowledge. It is marking its 350th anniversary this year by putting more than 60 of its most important scientific papers online.

- AP
Read more on:    isaac newton  |  science
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 40% on outdoor accessories!

Tents, sleeping, day packs and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Month End Madness Sale!

Save up to 60% on across a wide range of goods from books to electronics, DVDs and many more. Sale end 31 January 2015. Shop now!

Valentine’s Day gifts – 14 Feb!

Gifts to spoil him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off fragrances

Get 30% off fragrances for him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off All Textbooks

Save up to 30% off an extensive range of prescribed textbooks for all major universities and FET colleges. Shop Now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may come back into focus. You may get a second chance to say what needs to be said. The important focus today is to not...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.