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Monday, 18 January 2010 20:25

Handwritten account of Newton's apple goes online

The memoirs of William Stukeley’s firsthand, handwritten account of the apple falling on Sir Isaac Newton’s head is now available on the Web. Gravity rules! Or, an apple a day doesn't keep gravity away!

William Stukeley (1687-1765) was an eighteen-century English author and physician. He is considered one of the founders of the scientific field of archaeology, having investigated such stone-circle sites as Stonehenge and Avebury.

Stukeley was also one of the first biographers of Sir Isaac Newton.

The Royal Society has published the memoirs of Stukeley concerning the event that ‘supposedly’ led to Newton to think about how gravity works on Earth (and everywhere in the Universe) and, eventually, came to provide him with sufficient inspiration to write his theory of gravity.

The Royal Society goes formally by the much longer name of Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge. It was founded on July 15, 1662 by the Royal Society of London.

The memoirs authored by English author William Stukeley are entitled “Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life.”

According to the Guardian.co.uk article "Isaac Newton's falling apple tale drops into the web" the following is an excerpt of the Stukeley memoirs that were published in 1752:

"After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank 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. 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."

The story of an apple falling on Newton's head is up for debate as to its authenticity. But, most scientific historians have the following response to the story. See page two.

Although it’s a great story to tell, it isn’t true--at least, it is thought by most scientific historians not to be totally true.

Instead, it’s an interesting anecdote that Newton came up with after he (supposedly) saw an apple fall to the ground in his garden around 1666 and was inspired by the event to think about that invisible force we now call gravity.

English scientist Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) was a physicist, astronomer, and mathematician who is considered one of the most influential scientists of all history.

One of Newton’s most influential works is the "Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica," which is usually called simply the Principia.

Within the publication is his account of classical mechanics that describes universal gravitation and his three laws of motion.

Newton also developed a mathematical theory that turned into infinitesimal calculus. He was knighted in April 1705 by Queen Anne during her visit to Trinity College in Cambridge, England.

Sir Isaac was the first scientist to become knighted. He was also the first scientist to be buried in Westminster Abbey.

Page three contains the Royal Society website that contains the handwritten account of William Stukeley as relating to the story that Isaac Newton told to him one day while they sipped tea under an apple tree.

A biography of Newton appears on the website of the School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

Upon the release of the handwritten memoirs by Stukeley, Lord Rees, the president of the Royal Society stated, "Stukeley's biography is a precious artefact for historians of science." [TG Daily: “Isaac Newton's fruity story goes online”]

The text of Stukeley's Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life has been available online for a long time, but the handwritten version was just made available on Sunday, January 17, 2010.

According to the Scientific American article “What's the real story with Newton and the apple? See for yourself,” readers will need to have access to the Adobe Shockwave browser to view it.

Go to “Turning-the-Pages-Technical-Requirements” for additional download information.

Thus, read the handwritten William Stukeley memoirs of Newton (“Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life.”) at the Royal Society’s website “Turning the Pages.”

You can also go to the website "The Newton Project: William Stukeley's Memoir of Newton" to view the text of the Stukeley memoirs of Newton.


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