LONDON ~ An 18th-century manuscript telling the original story of how Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravity after seeing an apple fall off a tree was made public this week for the first time.
The account forms part of William Stukeley’s 1752 biography of the scientist, which has been hidden away in the archives of Britain’s Royal Society but has now been published online.
“After dinner, the weather being warm, we went out into the garden and drank tea under the shade of some apple trees, only he and myself,” reads Stukeley’s account of an evening with Newton in the scientist’s garden.
“Amidst other discourse, he told me he was just in the same situation as when formerly the notion of gravitation came into his mind.
“Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself, occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood.
“Why should it not go sideways or upwards, but constantly to the earth’s centre? Assuredly, the reason is that the earth draws it.”
The manuscript is one of a number published online to mark the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society, Britain’s national academy of science, and can be accessed at www.royalsociety.org/turning-the-pages.