skip to content

Apple Tree

The apple tree in the garden to the rear of the building is said to be a descendent from the tree that inspired Isaac Newton. It is said that Newton gave the following account of the event to his friend William Stukely: 'After dinner the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank tea, only he and myself. Amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly the notion of gravitation came into his mind. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself. Why should it not go sideways or upwards, but constantly to the earth's centre?'

There has been a tree at Trinity College since 1954 which bore fruit for the first time in 1970. The tree at the Institute was planted by Lady Atiyah, wife of the first Director of the Institute, as part of the opening ceremony in July 1992, and was later replanted in 2001. It was taken as a cutting from one at Newton's birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor near Grantham, and is a Flower of Kent, a pear-shaped cooking variety.


On the Replanting of Newton's Apple Tree
19 November 2001, at the Isaac Newton Institute

When Newton pondered 'neath the apple tree,
And hidden truths of Nature did discern,
Three universal laws he did decree
That those who seek might ever heed and learn;
There in the orchard did his mind take flight
O'er vistas wide, where only he could dare;
And to the planets having raised his sight,
Resolved their orbits through the inverse square.

This tree transported here from leafy glad
Of self-same strain that tasted Woolsthorpe's dew,
Well planted now through grace of silvered spade,
May stir th'enquiring mind to conquests new;
Symbol of arts well-nurtured at the root,
That may through budding genius harvest fruit.

Keith Moffatt


University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons