Isaac Newton is one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived. His contributions are still essential in modern day science, and many people would argue that he is the greatest scientist who has ever lived. One of his more famous discoveries was gravity, but is the story of Isaac Newton and the falling apple really true?
We all know that gravity is the force of attraction between any two bodies in our universe, right? So the problem that Isaac Newton had was to figure out how does this work and why? Surely, it can’t be a coincidence that every object falls at exactly the same rate regardless of mass or size. What makes objects fall towards each other? Is there some invisible hand pulling them down? How do we explain what causes an apple to fall from a tree but not the moon which is much heavier than an apple?
What is the Story of Isaac Newton and the Falling Apple?
In 1665, as a young man, while sitting under a tree outside his home in Woolsthorpe England, Newton saw an apple fall to the ground. This led him to develop his theory of universal gravitation and thus led to this discovery. He found out that everything attracts everything else with a force proportional to its mass and inversely proportional to the square of its distance from it. Thus the formula for Newton’s Law of Gravitation (F = Gm1m2/r2) was formed!
Basically, any object that is near the Earth’s surface will fall at the same rate, regardless of their mass. Additionally, each planet will maintain it’s own unique force of gravity, depending on it’s mass and radius. This was major, because we now know that gravity functions differently in every part of the solar system. I mentioned Newton in my post Feng Shui, Which Direction Should I Go? Strangely enough Feng Shui and the Laws of Gravity go nicely hand in hand, check it out to see what I mean!
Origin of Newton’s Apple Tree Story
It was shortly after Newton’s death in 1727 when accounts of this “Apple Story” began circulating. It’s said that it may of originated by a French philosopher named Voltaire. Voltaire was quite famous for his witty nature, but not so much for his acuracy. Supposedly he had heard information about Newton’s apple encounter from one of Newton’s relatives, however no evidence was ever produced to support that.
The importance of this story is quite big, as it provides and interesting and seemingly logical account as to how gravity was discovered. Not to mention it’s a short fun story to tell. There are even universities that claim to own actual trees that were grown from grafts of trees straight from Newton’s orchard. Maybe this is nothing more than inspiration planted for students. Whatever the case, I think it’s pretty cool.
Some even claim to have the exact same tree that the apple fell from when Isaac Newton made his discovery! Whether it’s true or not we may never know for sure, but if you want to check it out visit Isaac Newton’s Apple Tree It would be a cool place to visit even if it’s not the exact tree, however they do make a compelling argument that this is the real deal.
Was Newton’s Law of Gravitation Really Discovered because of a Falling Apple?
The story of Newton and the Apple Tree is very popular and an interesting tale indeed. But is this story true and is this really the reason he discovered gravity?
Some believe that it is more likely the Plague of 1665 had more to do with Newton’s discovery of gravity than a nice juicy apple falling from a tree. At the young age of 23, Newton was attending Cambridge when the horrible plague ingulfed England.
Similarly to the pandemic of COVID that we are facing today, all students were sent home and the university was closed. During this time of isolation, Newton spent focusing on his private studies. He later referred to this time period as being the time in his life in which he was most productive.
He spent days in constant solitude focusing and studying on computations and many nights observing and studying the sky. It was these calculations that seeded his ideas that would turn into years of obsessive work to formulate his Theory of Universal Gravitation.
His work laid the foundation for modern physics and astronomy as well as mathematics. One of his greatest achievements was understanding that gravity exists between all objects with mass – even those too small or distant to see!
So even though Isaac Newton did enjoy his apple orchard, and probably had many walks and may of even taken a few naps under a tree, the probability his discovery of gravity came from a falling apple is quite slim. I don’t doubt that movement of many things around him sparked curiosity and could of possibly contributed to his ideas, but there was a lot more hard work involved in his theory than just a falling piece of fruit.