26 February 2010

Isaac Newton really WAS inspired by a falling apple

I've always thought the story was apocryphal, but this document says not:
Newton recounted the story that inspired his theory of gravitation to scholar William Stukeley.  It then appeared in Stukeley's 1752 biography, Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life.

The UK's Royal Society converted the fragile manuscript into an electronic book, which anybody with internet access will now be able to read.

In the story, Newton claimed to have been inspired by a falling apple in his garden to investigate the theory of gravitation.


  1. Yes, the only mythical part of the story was the bit about the apple falling on his head. I wonder when that particular aspect was added to the story?

  2. Newton was a shameless self-promoter; I don't think the issue was whether he claimed to have been inspired by a falling apple, but whether it was an honest claim.

  3. Old news this - Stukeley is indeed the one who told us what Newton had told him.

    One problem is that he was told only some 60 years after the incident apparently took place; Newton apparently didn't tell anyone else, nor wrote anything. Another problem is that Newton desired to bring the discovery of the notion of gravitation as far back in time as possible; but in his own papers, there's no hint of such ideas in his works from 1666-67.


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