Newton's apple tree

15 May, 2011

Sir Isaac Newton.
Sir Isaac Newton.
Image: Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723)

Question: Hi. I read an article in a science journal a number of years back which reported that some cuttings were taken from the apple tree that Isaac Newton was sitting under when he first formed his theory of gravitation and apparently one of these cuttings came to Australia where it was eventually donated to and planted at Scienceworks. Is this true?

Answer:  It may not necessarily have hit him on the head, but why an apple should fall from a tree directly to the ground was the question that certainly prompted Isaac Newton to consider whether that same force might explain why the planets are held in their orbits around the Sun, namely gravity.

According to William Stukeley, one of his earliest biographers, Newton was sitting in the shade of some apple trees when he first asked the question "why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground?"

Following Newton’s death, cuttings were taken from an apple tree that grew at Woolsthorpe Manor, Newton’s birthplace and family home, in Lincolnshire, England, one of which did in fact make its way to Australia. Unfortunately for Museum Victoria, it was not planted at Scienceworks, but can instead be found in the form of a large and healthy tree in the Kenneth Hunt Memorial Garden at the Clayton campus of Monash University.

Comments (3)

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Dale Hatton 16 May, 2015 11:39
I have been told that a cutting also ended up at the csiro building, High Street in Belmont, Geelong, the land has since been sold and is currently being bulldozed, if this is one of those trees it would be a great loss to see it gone, I am trying to gain access to the property to get my own cutting.
Dale Hatton 18 May, 2015 20:50
Great success! The tree has been moved to Deakin University and with permission I managed to get some cuttings, fingers crossed that they propagate!
Peter Miller 18 February, 2017 12:14
There is also a clone at the Parkes Radio Telescope in NSW. It was for many years overgrown and in rather poor condition, but about fifteen years ago, a friend of mine who is an apple expert, took scions and replanted them. It is now clearly marked with a plaque as a descendent of Newton's tree. The variety of apple is called Flower of Kent. I also have a clone, which was planted above the ashes of my late wife some 13 years ago. I am - right this moment - looking at 6 apples that came from the tree.
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