Isaac Newton's apple tree
We are custodians of an apple tree with a very special place in history. Newton's apple tree is intertwined with his discovery of the law of gravitation – a story Newton himself told.
In the orchard at Woolsthorpe Manor we are custodians of a very special apple tree. Yes, the very tree from which an apple fell and caused Newton to ask the question: 'Why do apples always fall straight down to the ground?'
The tree first put down roots around 400 years ago. For at least 240 years it has been shown to visitors as Isaac Newton's apple tree.
Here he began to think about why everything always fell down - not sideways, or upwards - and came to the conclusion that there must be a power (now we call it a force) that draws them. 'How far would that power extend?', he thought. 'Why not as far as the moon?'.
The story of the apple falling inspiring Newton is a scientific legend, but there are many truths in it. We know he was constantly inspired by the natural world around him. This caused him to question, explore and experiment. Later in life, Newton himself told the story to his biographers, both William Stukeley and John Conduitt, and they recorded it in their writings.
" the notion of gravitation... was occasion'd by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood."
The real thing?
People have been coming to visit the tree and the manor house at Woolsthorpe ever since Newton's time. When a storm blew the tree down in 1820, pilgrims came to see it lying in the orchard. Sketches were made of it and the broken wood was used to make snuff boxes and small trinkets.
That might have been the end of the story (and some sources claim it was), but contemporary drawings confirm the tree remained rooted and re-grew strongly from the base. This is the tree you can see now.
Both the oral tradition and the dendrochronology confirm that it's the right age, and the Tree Council has certified it as one of 50 Great British Trees.
Caring for the tree
Today the tree is pruned regularly to keep it healthy; it continues to grow and bear blossom and fruit. A low barrier has been installed around it to protect the root run and give it some ‘breathing space’.
It's a 'Flower of Kent' apple tree, a traditional variety, which produces cooking apples which are green with a red flush, of varying sizes.
A photograph by the apple tree is an essential part of a pilgrimage to Woolsthorpe - come and see it for yourself. If you are not able to visit us, there is no need to miss out. Click on the link below to watch a time lapse video of Newton's apple tree through a whole year.