Newton & Apple

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A biography written by William Stukeley, one of Newton's contemporaries, relates the apple story as Newton himself told it to Stukeley.

What's the real story with Newton and the apple? See for yourself

The text of Stukeley's Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life has long been available online , but the Royal Society opened up digital access to the handwritten manuscript itself Sunday. 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…". Stukeley's work was not published until , a quarter-century after Newton died at the age of 84, so it's possible that his recollection of Newton's tale veers somewhat from the truth.

But the legend also appears in other accounts of the time, so if the apple-tree story is a tall tale, it's one nearly as old as Newton's theory itself. The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. The person who popularized the apple story was none other than Voltaire.


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In Candide Voltaire ridiculed Leibnitz. The character Dr.

Pangloss, who went about insisting that we live in the "best of all possible worlds," was Voltaire's version of Leibnitz. We might chalk Voltaire's apple story up to partisan license. But the story has good corroboration.

Newton told it to close friends, who also recorded it for us. If you've ever done anything creative, you'll recognize the plausibility of the apple story.

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You'll remember your own moment when some small and commonplace event revealed a great truth to you. That's the way creativity works. It's almost always the recognition of a great truth out of context. Why did I so mistrust the apple story when I first heard it? Change language. Install Steam.

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