Was Isaac Newton’s Theory of Gravitation Inspired By an Apple Falling From a Tree?

Even people who are not interested in science are familiar with the story of an apple falling from a tree, which inspired famous English scientist Isaac Newton to come up with the theory of gravitation. But is there any truth to this story, or is it just a myth?

As the original story goes, Newton was sitting under an apple tree on a warm evening and gathering his thoughts. At one point, an apple fell from the tree and struck him in the head. Instead of being rattled, Newton exclaimed “Eureka” and came up with the theory of gravitation on the spot.

While this sounds like a remarkable story, it is most likely not correct. Modern scholars believe that Newton came up with the Theory of Gravitation after a long period of observation of the world that surrounds him, with a falling apple being just a part of the equation.

Newton’s friend, author William Stukeley, described the event in his book Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, notably leaving out the part where the apple falls on Newton’s head.

“Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground”, thought he to himself: occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood: “Why should it not go sideways, or upwards? But constantly to the Earth’s center? Assuredly, the reason is, that the Earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter. And the sum of the drawing power in the matter of the Earth must be in the Earth’s center, not in any side of the Earth. Therefore does this apple fall perpendicularly, or toward the center,” Stukeley writes.

There are also some scientists and experts who believe that Newton made up the falling apple event later in his life or gave it more importance than it deserved. However, we will never know, and maybe it is better that way because it is definitely a cool story.

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